The Royal Air Force (RAF) has completed a flight on an RAF Voyager (A330 MRTT) aircraft fuelled with 100% sustainable aircraft fuel (SAF) from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The flight, which happened on Wednesday, was a joint venture between the RAF and Airbus and paves the way for non-fossil fuel-powered military aircraft as part of the UK’s net-zero commitment. The 90-minute flight was also the first ever 100% SAF-powered flight in UK airspace.
Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said: “True to our purpose of ‘pioneering aerospace’, 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.”
Sustainable Aviation Fuel is made from waste-based sustainable feedstocks, and in this case, used cooking oil. It reduces lifecycle carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to the conventional fuel it replaces and reduces the RAF’s reliance on global supply chains improving operational resilience by reducing the necessity for fuel resupplying.
During the 90-minute return flight from RAF Brize Norton the combined Airbus, RAF and Rolls-Royce flight-test crew replicated an air-to-air refuelling sortie and was witnessed by senior RAF and industry representatives.
Experimental test pilot and Captain of the flight, Jesus Ruiz, said: “From the crew perspective, the SAF operation was ‘transparent’, meaning that 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, harmonsing experience from Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the RAF. We feel very proud to be a small part of this huge step for sustainable aviation.”
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: “Climate change is a transnational challenge that threatens our resilience, our security and our collective prosperity. That is why I have set the RAF the ambitious challenge of becoming the world’s first net-zero Air Force by 2040. The way we power our aircraft will be key to meeting that challenge and the RAF is already thinking about how we will operate beyond fossil fuels. This exciting trial flight of a Voyager from RAF Brize Norton powered entirely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel is an important milestone on that journey, and marks another technological first for the RAF alongside our industry partners.”