Rolls-Royce flight tests Trent 1000 engine on 100% SAF


Rolls-Royce has carried out a successful test flight of a Trent 1000 engine on its 747 Flying Testbed aircraft using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the USA.

The 747 testbed aircraft flew from Tucson airport in Arizona, passing over New Mexico and Texas, with a Trent 1000 engine running solely on 100% SAF while the remaining three RB211 engines ran on standard jet fuel. The aircraft arrived back at the airport three hours and 54 minutes later.

Initial indications confirm there were no engineering issues, providing further proof of the fuel’s suitability for commercial use, said the company.

The Rolls-Royce flying testbed is used to carry out a variety of engine-related tests that improve efficiency and durability, as well as support our decarbonisation strategy.

The flight was carried out with Boeing, which provided technical support and oversight on aircraft modifications and assurance the aircraft systems would operate as expected with 100% SAF. World Energy, the world’s first and the USA’s only commercial-scale SAF production company, provided the fuel.

Last week Rolls-Royce committed to ensuring that all of its Trent engines will be compatible with 100% SAF by 2023. Aircraft are currently only certified to operate on a maximum of 50% SAF blended with conventional jet fuel and the company is supporting efforts to certificate non-blended SAF.

Trent 1000

The Trent 1000 engine mounted on the Rolls-Royce flying testbed

The use of 100% SAF is particularly important for long-distance air travel, which industry experts predict will require the power density of gas turbine engines for years to come.

Simon Burr, director of product development and technology – civil aerospace said, “We believe in air travel as a force for cultural good, but we also recognise the need to take action to decarbonise our industry. This flight is another example of collaboration across the value chain to make sure all the aircraft technology solutions are in place to enable a smooth introduction of 100% SAF into our industry.”

Sheila Remes, vice president of environmental sustainability at Boeing, said, “It is an honour to partner with Rolls-Royce and World Energy on this 100% SAF flight. Its success further illustrates that SAF can fully replace conventional jet fuel over the long term and is a viable renewable energy solution to decarbonise aviation over the next 20-30 years.”

Gene Gebolys, CEO of World Energy, said, “As the world’s first and U.S.’s only SAF producer, we’re grateful for the trailblazing work our partners are doing. Rolls-Royce’s work to prove the viability of powering the jet engines they make with the 100% renewable SAF we make lays the groundwork for fossil fuel-free flight. This work is incredibly important, and we applaud and appreciate Rolls-Royce for working with us to do it.”

The need to significantly increase the production of SAF was recognised recently by the US Biden administration with the launch of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge to produce three billion gallons of the fuel a year by 2030. This will form part of a wider aviation climate action plan to be released in the coming months.

The European Commission has also created a ReFuelEU Aviation proposal that would mandate the incorporation of SAF supplied at EU airports. This would increase to 63% by 2050.

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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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