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SAF-Powered Airbus Jet and Chase Aircraft Complete Promising Test Flight

An Airbus A350 running on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) got chased by a Falcon aircraft during a recent test campaign. The test flight offered crucial insight, with initial findings pointing to SAF having a positive impact on aircraft emissions.
Airbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over France 8 photos
Airbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over FranceAirbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over FranceAirbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over FranceAirbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over FranceAirbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over FranceAirbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over FranceAirbus A350 and Falcon chase aircraft perform breathtaking aerial dance over France
The recent flight was part of the ECLIF3, a project that includes Airbus, Rolls-Royce, German research center DLR and SAF producer Neste. It marked the first time 100 percent SAF has been measured on both engines of a commercial aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

"Engines and fuel systems can be tested on the ground but the only way to gather the full set of emissions data necessary for this programme to be successful is to fly an aircraft in real conditions," said Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager at Airbus.

For that to happen, a chase aircraft had to closely follow the A350. This kind of in-flight testing, pioneered by NASA and the U.S. Air Force, has been used since the '60s, and it offers valuable information that cannot be otherwise realistically obtained.

The recent test saw DLR's modified Dassault Falcon 20E-5 flying 328 feet (100 meters) behind the Airbus jet. Using its onboard scientific instruments, the chase aircraft was able to collect essential in-flight data on SAF's emissions performance.

The fuel used by the A350 is not mixed with any fossil fuels, unlike today's SAF blends. Analyzing SAF's behavior and performance in real settings plays a big role in achieving future certification.

The findings will add to the efforts conducted by Airbus and Rolls-Royce that target the adoption of SAF on a large scale in the aviation sector as part of the industry's larger decarbonization goal.

Airbus aircraft are currently certified to operate with a maximum 50 percent blend of SAF and conventional fuel. The latest test is just the beginning of a series of in-flight tests that would enable the company to obtain certification for 100 percent SAF on its entire fleet by 2030.

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