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Airbus Helicopters completes world's first 100% biofuel helicopter flight




The Airbus H225 flew for about ten minutes on 100% SAF (photo: Airbus Helicopters)
The Airbus H225 flew for about ten minutes on 100% SAF (photo: Airbus Helicopters)
FRANCE. The skies over Marignane, near Marseilles, were the scene of a world first on Tuesday 9 November 2021, when an Airbus H225 equipped with a Safran Makila 2 engine ran solely on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

A partnership between three French companies (Airbus Helicopters, Safran Helicopters Engines and TotalEnergies) enabled this historic feat to be achieved by the aircraft of the Super Puma family for around ten minutes.

The CAD used was composed of 100% used cooking oil recycled by TotalEnergies. This fuel offers a net reduction of 90% in CO2 compared to a carburettor fuelled by paraffin. It was previously tested on a test bench by Safran Helicopters Engines at its Bordes plant in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region. All Safran engines are certified to run on a 50/50 mixture of paraffin and CAD.

In France, the bio-refineries at La Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône) and Grandpuits (Normandy) produce this fuel for the aerospace industry. In September 2021, TotalEnergies and Safran signed a strategic partnership to develop the use of DACs. The French oil company has invested €500 million to convert its Grandpuits refinery (Seine-et-Marne) into biofuels by 2024. Out of a total processing capacity of 400,000 tonnes per year, 170,000 tonnes will be CAD, mainly for the needs of airports in the Paris region.

Moving from 50% to 100% DAC within a decade

Airbus Helicopters is thus beginning a campaign of test flights to assess the impact of DAC not mixed with paraffin on the helicopter's systems "with a view to certifying the use of FAS mixtures exceeding the current limit of 50%", says a press release from the aircraft manufacturer. In June 2021, an H145 equipped with Safran Arriel 2E engines had already flown with second-generation DAC (made from fats and waste oils from the food industry), but mixed with 60% paraffin. Operated by the German company ADAC Luftrettung, the rescue helicopter departed from the heliport of the Harlaching Clinic in Munich for a trip over the city.

"Our company has the ambition to have its helicopters certified to fly with 100% SAF within the decade. Today's flight is an important first step towards this goal," comments Stefan Thomé, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Chief Technical Officer of the Airbus subsidiary.

The first 100% biofuel helicopter flight comes a few days after an Iberia Airbus A320neo made a Madrid-Bilbao flight also using only green fuel thanks to a partnership with Spanish oil company Repsol.

Eric Apim


Wednesday, November 10th 2021



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