Airbus begins A400M flight test program for SAF


Airbus is flight testing the A400M with SAF, with the flight test flight campaign starting with a successful first flight using a 29% mix of the drop-in biofuel earlier this summer.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a biofuel made of residuals of oils, vegetables and fats, was tested on A400M test aircraft MSN4, known as Grizzly 4 by the flight test team, by the Military Air Systems unit of Airbus Defence and Space at Airbus´ San Pablo plant in Seville, Spain.

During the first test flight, engine number 2 of the aircraft was run on a blended load of 29% SAF. The use of SAF was limited to one engine to better analyze the fuel system´s behavior feeding a single engine.

The flight headed towards the North of Huelva and landed back in Seville, making a trip of more than an hour in total.

César González, flight test engineer at Airbus Defence and Space said, “During the flight, we performed a close comparison between engine number 2, the one using SAF, and the other 3 engines using standard fuel Jet A1, so we had a very good opportunity to compare the performance of the different fuels.

“The results we got confirmed that using this blended SAF does not affect engines or aircraft performance, so the A400M can receive the whole potential of it in terms of environmental benefit”, González added.

This flight demonstrated that both the aircraft and its TP400-D6 engines, can meet the new fuel requirements with a blend of 50% certified SAF for a more sustainable military aviation.

Airbus and the maker of the A400M’s TP400-D6 turboprop engines EuroProp International are to establish a roadmap towards 100% SAF certification for the aircraft.

“This flight is a significant step forward, and relying on the expertise of our parent companies, we are confident that TP400-D6 robust design will enable us to reach the highest SAF standards”, said Stephan Schlisske, head of design organisation at Europrop International.

More than 100 A400M aircraft are deployed in 8 different countries. Rocío Gutierrez Alonso, chief engineer of A400M power plant said, “Our operators had expressed their willingness to use SAF in their military operations, and we are here to respond to their needs.  After running all flight test procedures and performing the required ground tests analysis, the engineering team gave the green light to this first test flight with SAF.

Grizzly 4

The Grizzly 4 A400M test aircraft has been in use since December 2010, including the development and certification of AAR (air to air refueling) capabilities as a tanker and receiver and also for cargo and parachute drops, as it was designed in such a way that the cargo hold was free of instrumentation and therefore, fully usable for aerial delivery or additional fuel tanks (CHT).

This first flight with SAF is number F994 in the MSN4´s service record, so it is only six more flights away from being retired after nearly 2,000 flight hours.

“This flight of an A400M using SAF is a first step in our division that creates the momentum to progress steadily and persistently at an efficient pace along a path towards sustainability”, Gutiérrez said. “More flight tests with SAF are planned for the coming months for the C295 and the A330 MRTT, which will soon join the A400M in this fascinating race towards sustainable military aviation.”

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