Bell flies helicopter with 100% sustainable aviation fuel


The Bell 505 has become the first single-engine helicopter to fly using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Bell Textron worked with Safran Helicopter Engines, Neste, GKN Aerospace and Virent on the Bell 505 Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight. 

Safran makes the Arrius 2R engine used on the Bell 505. GKN Aerospace is the fuel system component supplier, while Neste supplied the SAF and Virent manufactures renewable fuels and chemicals.

Michael Thacker, executive vice president of commercial business at Bell said, “This flight is a monumental achievement for sustainability and decarbonization in the rotorcraft industry. Showcasing a single engine aircraft’s flight capabilities with 100% SAF signals Bell’s commitment to alternative fuel usage and builds on its sustainability practices in its flight operations.”

Valentin Safir, executive vice president of programs at Safran Helicopter Engines said, “SAF is one of the key pillars in our strategy to decarbonize the helicopter industry. Our engines are certified to operate on up to 50% SAF and our objective is to certify in the coming years the use of 100% SAF, which can potentially result in carbon lifecycle emissions reductions by up to 80%.”

Safran Helicopter Engines and GKN Aerospace conducted testing on the engine and fuel system components. Neste and Virent collaborated to blend, test, and deliver the SAF for the project as a 100% drop-in fuel.

Neste’s SAF is made from used cooking oil or other bio-based feedstocks, and is blended with petroleum products because it doesn’t include aromatics to meet today’s aviation fuel specifications. Virent manufactures an aromatics component made from renewable plant sugars, which was added to Neste’s neat SAF, eliminating the need to blend SAF with petroleum fuel.

Bell’s internal training fleet and demonstration aircraft use SAF in their operations. The team continues to guide customer conversations around its implementation and monitors SAF testing in a dedicated Bell 505 with Safran Helicopter Engines.

The Bell 505 is a five-seat aircraft that uses a fully integrated Garmin G1000H NXi avionics suite and Safran Arrius 2R engine with a dual-channel FADEC.

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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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