RAF completes first military air transport SAF flight test


The UK’s RAF and Airbus have completed the world’s flight test of an in-service military transporter using entirely Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

The test flight from RAF Brize Norton took place last week with the Voyager aircraft, a military variant of the A330 airliner.

The 90 minute flight was a joint endeavor between the RAF, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support agency, British aircraft leasing company AirTanker and engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. The fuel was supplied by Air bp.

The aircraft flew with a combined Airbus, RAF and Rolls-Royce flight-test crew, replicated an air-to-air refueling sortie and was witnessed by senior RAF and industry representatives.

Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space said, “We have gladly supported the Royal Air Force on this landmark sustainable-fuel test flight. I commend our UK customer for this achievement which helps pave the way for a sustainable reduction of carbon emissions of our military aircraft fleets.

“Airbus engineers have made a significant contribution to this RAF mission by providing on-the-ground expertise in recent weeks and securing the necessary MoD military flight permits.”

SAF is a biofuel that can be made from a variety of sustainable sources and in this case was produced from used cooking oil. It can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to the conventional fossil fuel.

The RAF said the test flight demonstrated the potential for SAF’s future operational capability, ensuring the ability to contribute to UK defence wherever and whenever it was required.

Experimental test pilot and captain of the flight, Jesus Ruiz, said: “From the crew perspective no differences were observed operationally. The Test Plan was exhaustive and robust and has allowed us to compare SAF with JET1 culminating in a flight without a single drop of fossil fuel.

“Teamwork was a key contributor, harmonizing experience from Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the RAF. We feel very proud to be a small part of this huge step for sustainable aviation.”

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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