As part of a broader push on part of the aviation industry to reduce its carbon footprint, Airbus has conducted the first ever flight of its giant A380 jumbo jet using 100 percent biofuel. This is the third Airbus aircraft to fly using the sustainable fuel made up of primarily cooking oil, as the company works to certify the technology by the end of the decade.
The aircraft featured in the groundbreaking flight is the Airbus ZEROe Demonstrator, an A380 adapted for use as a flying testbed and one the company plans to also use to test out hydrogen combustion jet engines.
For this particular outing, the aircraft was loaded up with 27 tonnes of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), made mostly with cooking oil and waste fats. This powered the A380’s Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine across a three-hour test flight out of the Blagnac Airport in Toulouse France on March 28, with a second flight then carrying it all the way to Nice Airport on March 29.
This demonstration follows successful flights of the Airbus A350 and the Airbus A319neo single-aisle plane using SAF last year. Using the biofuel to now power the world’s largest passenger jet marks another step forward for the testing program, as Airbus aspires to bring the world’s first zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.
Airbus isn’t alone in pursuing cleaner aviation with the help of cooking oil. Way back in 2012, Boeing made the first biofuel-powered Pacific crossing in its 787 Dreamliner using a mix of regular jet fuel and fuel derived mainly from cooking oil. In 2014, it even opened up a biofuel production plant in China based to ensure a consistent supply.
In emphasizing the potential of SAF, Airbus refers to the Waypoint 2050 report put together by collaboration of aviation experts to outline how the industry can achieve decarbonization by midway through the century. That report identifies the deploying of SAF as the single largest opportunity to meet these goals, with the potential to deliver between 53 and 71 percent of the required carbon reductions.
As it stands, all of Airbus’ aircraft are certified to fly with a 50 percent SAF-kerosene blend. Airbus aims to achieve certification for 100 percent SAF use by the end of the decade.