Working alongside Boeing and World Energy, Rolls-Royce has marked a milestone in its lower carbon journey having carried out a successful test flight of its 747 Flying Testbed aircraft using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a Trent 1000 engine.
The aircraft flew from Tucson Airport in Arizona on 19 October with a Trent 1000 engine running solely on 100% SAF. The remaining three RB211 engines ran on standard jet fuel and the flight lasted three hours and 45 minutes before landing back at the same airport having passed over New Mexico and Texas.
Aircraft are currently only certified to operate on a maximum of 50% SAF blended with conventional jet fuel and Rolls-Royce continues to support efforts to certificate non-blended SAF.
The need to increase SAF production was recently recognised by the US Biden administration with the launch of a SAF Grand Challenge to produce 3 billion gallons of the fuel a year by 2030. Th 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.
“We believe in air travel as a force for cultural good, but we also recognise the need to take action to decarbonise our industry,” said Simon Burr, Rolls-Royce, Director Product Development and Technology – Civil Aerospace. “This flight is another example of our 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.”
The test flight was carried out in close collaboration with Boeing, which provided technical support and oversight on aircraft modifications and assurance the aircraft systems would operate as expected with 100% SAF. The low-carbon fuel for the flight was provided by World Energy, the world’s first and America’s only commercial-scale SAF production company.
“We’re grateful for the trailblazing work our partners are doing,” said Gene Gebolys, CEO, World Energy. “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.”