First helicopter engine is powered by 100% sustainable fuel


Safran Helicopter Engines is claiming a world first after running one of its engines on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

The Makila 2 engine was powered by biofuel produced by TotalEnergies. The fuel feedstock was residues and waste from the circular economy in the form of used cooking oil.

The test followed the first flight of a rescue helicopter powered by 40% SAF in June, and the fuel’s introduction for engine tests at the company’s sites since July, according to Franck Saudo, CEO of Safran Helicopter Engines.  “We are now taking a new step toward using fuel made entirely from renewable sources,” he said.

“This test campaign is a key step in the realisation of future test flights with our helicopter partners. The use of sustainable fuels among helicopter operators and at our sites is a promising lever to significantly reduce CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle of our products.”

The tests evaluated the operational impact of using 100% on a helicopter engine at a Safran technical facility known as ‘Bearcat’ (Banc d’Essai Avancé pour la Recherche en Combustion et Aérothermique des Turbomachines).

Virginie Merini, TotalEnergies’ senior vice president, Renewable Fuels, said: “By offering our customers like Safran sustainable aviation biofuels produced in France, we are meeting a strong demand from the aviation industry to reduce its carbon footprint.

“The development of biofuels is one of the main thrusts of TotalEnergies’ multi-energy strategy to meet the challenge of decarbonising the transportation sector.”

The initiative was in line with the company’s climate change ambition of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, added Merini.

Safran engines are currently certified to operate with up to 50% SAF. Upgrading to 100% SAF would  lower carbon footprint of these fuels by slashing CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

Safran Helicopter Engines ran the Makila 2 engine on 100% used cooking oil.