Bell Textron completes first SAF-fuelled single-engine helicopter flight

Finnish biofuel producer Neste supplied the sustainable aviation fuel

The Bell 505 has become the first single-engine helicopter to fly using SAF. Photo: Bell
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Bell Textron has completed its first flight running on 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The Bell 505 has become the “first ever” single-engine helicopter to fly using SAF, the American aerospace company said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This flight is a monumental achievement for sustainability and decarbonisation in the rotorcraft industry,” said Michael Thacker, Bell's executive vice president for commercial business.

“Showcasing a single-engine aircraft’s flight capabilities with 100 per cent SAF signals Bell’s commitment to alternative fuel usage and builds on its sustainability practices in its flight operations.”

Finnish biofuel producer Neste teamed up with a unit of US refiner Marathon Petroleum to blend, test and deliver the clean fuel for the project, Bell Textron said.

“This successful collaboration demonstrates that we are one step closer to enabling the entire aviation industry to take full advantage of 100 per cent SAF as the key means to significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions of air travel,” said Jonathan Wood, vice president of global commercial and technical, renewable aviation at Neste.

SAF is widely considered in the sector as the most significant contributor to helping the sector reach its net-zero goal by 2050.

But achieving this would require a major boost in SAF production from current levels, and cheaper costs.

Last year, an Airbus H225 made the first helicopter flight with 100 per cent SAF powering both engines.

A few weeks ago, Emirates — the world’s largest long-haul airline — successfully completed a demonstration flight powered by 100 per cent SAF.

The Boeing 777-300ER flew for more than an hour over Dubai's coastline, becoming the first such flight in the Mena region to have one of its two engines powered by SAF.

In 2021, the world's airlines pledged net-zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2050 — bringing the air transport industry in line with the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Aviation industry players are facing pressure from environmental groups to lower their carbon footprint and make operations greener after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 8:22 AM