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Rolls-Royce Successfully Demonstrates Trailblazing 100 Percent SAF-Powered Flight

There’s still a long way to go until commercial aviation can rely exclusively on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), but important milestones confirm the fact that we’re getting closer to that point. Rolls-Royce, one of the major supporters of carbon-neutral solutions in the aerospace industry, has recently accomplished a successful SAF-powered flight.
The 747 Flying Testbed demonstrated a successful flight form Tucson to Arizona, running on SAF 7 photos
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Governments across the globe are pushing for the de-carbonization of all types of transportation, including aviation. In the U.S., the Biden administration has launched the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge for SAF-related projects. It aims to reach up to three billion gallons production capacity of fuel per year by 2030. In Europe, the European Commission launched the ReFuelEU Aviation proposal to supply increased quantities of SAF at airports.

Although electric and hybrid propulsion systems are also essential alternatives for zero-emission flights. For now, SAF is considered the most viable solution. But, according to current regulations, aircraft can use only up to 50% SAF, mixed with conventional fuel. So, one of the goals is to achieve certification of non-blended SAF to conduct sustainable long-distance travel.

This is what Rolls-Royce is supporting, and it recently announced that all of its Trent engines will be compatible with non-blended SAF by 2023. The company’s most recent test was a giant step in that direction, as its 747 Flying Testbed aircraft conducted a successful flight, operating on 100% SAF.

The 747 Flying Testbed flew over Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, with its Trent engine running entirely on non-blended SAF, while its other three RB211 engines ran on conventional fuel. According to Rolls-Royce, there were no technical issues, and the aircraft made a successful return to the Tucson airport, demonstrating the efficiency of SAF.

Boeing also gave a helping hand, ensuring that the aircraft would function properly. At the same time, the green jet fuel was provided by World Energy, the only company in the U.S. to produce SAF on a commercial scale.

Although Rolls-Royce estimates that it will be another 20 to 30 years before aviation can become totally carbon neutral, successful tests such as this one prove that aircraft are closer to switching to 100% SAF.

Editor's note: Story was updated to fix error about the flight route.

press release

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