Bell 505 claims first single engine helicopter flight using 100% SAF

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Bell Textron is claiming a global first for a single engine helicopter flight powered solely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), after a Bell 505 completed a mission using only renewable fuel. The manufacturer partnered with Safran Helicopter Engines, Neste, GKN Aerospace and Virent to enable the record-breaking flight.

Michael Thacker, executive vice president, Commercial Business, Bell described the flight as a “monumental achievement” for sustainability and decarbonisation in the rotorcraft industry. “Showcasing a single engine aircraft’s flight capabilities with 100% SAF signals Bell’s commitment to alternative fuel usage and builds on its sustainability practices in its flight operations,” he said.

Valentin Safir, executive vice-president, Programs, Safran Helicopter Engines said SAF is one of the key pillars in its strategy to decarbonise the helicopter industry. “Our engines are certified to operate on up to 50% SAF and our objective is to certify in the coming years the use of 100% SAF, which can potentially result in carbon lifecycle emissions reductions by up to 80%,” said Safir.

Bell’s partners were: Safran Helicopter Engines, manufacturer of the Arrius 2R engine on the Bell 505; GKN Aerospace, the fuel system component supplier; Neste, the SAF supplier; and Virent; a Marathon Petroleum Corp. subsidiary that manufactures renewable fuels and chemicals. Before the flight Safran Helicopter Engines and GKN Aerospace tested the engine and fuel system components.

Neste and Virent collaborated to blend, test, and deliver the SAF for this project as a 100% drop-in fuel. Bell explained SAF, made from used cooking oil or other bio-based feedstocks, is usually blended with petroleum products. That’s because it doesn’t include a component called aromatics, needed to meet aviation fuel specifications. Virent makes an aromatics component made from renewable plant sugars. This was added to Neste’s neat SAF, which avoided the need to blend SAF with petroleum fuel. That makes the SAF supplied for the record breaking flight a 100% drop-in replacement for petroleum-based aviation fuel, requiring no engine modifications.

Bell’s training fleet and demonstration aircraft use SAF. “The team continues to guide customer conversations around its implementation and monitors SAF testing in a dedicated Bell 505 with Safran Helicopter Engines,” according to the manufacturer. This flight is part of Textron’s Achieve 2025 Sustainable Footprint plan for a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the enterprise, among other sustainability initiatives.

Meanwhile, for more information on SAF, visit Helicopter Investor’s new sister site SAF Investor. Top news on the site today is that KBR, the global engineering company, and Swedish Biofuels have launched a SAF technology alliance.

Top and above: Bell .is claiming a global first for a single engine helicopter flight powered solely by SAF. The team celebrate the success of the first flight powered by SAF.

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