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Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Emirates conducts world’s first Airbus A380 demo flight with one engine on neat SAF

Emirates conducts world’s first Airbus A380 demo flight with one engine on neat SAF
Emirates A380 is being fuelled with 100 SAF (photo courtesy Emirates).

International air carrier Emirates Group has become the first airline to operate an Airbus A380 demonstration flight with one of the aircraft’s four engines powered with 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supplied by Neste. The flight demonstrates the potential of SAF as a more sustainable drop-in replacement for fossil-based jet fuel, matching its technical and chemical requirements. SAF can currently be used in up to 50 percent blends with conventional fossil jet fuel. 

The A380 demonstration flight took off on November 22, 2023, from Dubai International Airport (DXB) and is the result of close cooperation between Neste, Emirates, Airbus, Engine Alliance, Pratt & Whitney, and Virent, with ENOC supporting the delivery of Neste’s SAF.

The flight underlines the performance and compatibility of SAF as a safe and reliable fuel and contributes to the growing body of research carried out by the industry to study the beneficial effects of 100 percent SAF usage on aircraft emissions and performance.

Emirates is the first passenger airline in the world to operate an A380 with 100 percent drop-in SAF powering one of four Engine Alliance GP7200 engines. This is another proud moment for Emirates and our partners, as we put words into action with the research into and the trialing of higher concentrations of SAF to eventually lead to industry adoption of 100 percent SAF flying. This marks another significant step in validating the use of SAF in one of the engines of the A380, a wide-body aircraft with four engines, said Adel Al Redha, Chief Operating Officer of Emirates Airline.

Fully drop-in renewable fuel

The 100 percent SAF used on the flight also includes renewable aromatic content. The fuel’s characteristics are similar to conventional jet fuel, making it a so-called “drop-in” fuel, requiring no modifications to the aircraft or its engines before use.

This is the first time that 100 percent drop-in SAF is used on an A380 aircraft, with the expectation of full compatibility across the aircraft’s existing systems.

The growing global demand for lower-emission jet fuel alternatives is there, and the work of producers and suppliers to commercialize SAF and make it available will be critical in the coming years to help Emirates and the wider industry advance our path to lower carbon emissions, said Adel Al Redha.

Neste provided its Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel (HEFA-SPK), to which the aromatic bio-component from Virent was added by ENOC to produce 100 percent renewable jet fuel that meets all the jet fuel requirements.

The 100 percent SAF then powered one Engine Alliance GP7200 engine in the aircraft, while conventional fossil jet fuel was used in the other three engines.

The PW980 auxiliary power unit (APU) from Pratt & Whitney Canada, providing power to aircraft systems when engines are not running, also ran on 100 percent SAF.

The demonstration flight using Neste’s SAF follows the recent expansion of the partnership between Emirates and Neste for the supply of over 9,000 tonnes of blended Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel over the course of 2024 and 2025 for Emirates’ flights departing from Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Singapore Changi (SIN) airports.

Sustainable aviation fuel plays a crucial role in reducing the emissions of air travel, but to fully leverage its decarbonization potential, we need to enable the use of 100 percent SAF. Test flights like this Emirates A380 flight using Neste’s SAF are an important step towards 100 percent SAF certification, and we applaud Emirates for its efforts to help pave the way forward. Neste is working closely together with partners to accelerate the availability and use of SAF, and we look forward to growing the supply of SAF into Dubai, said Jonathan Wood, VP of Commercial Management and Business Development from the Renewable Aviation business at Neste.

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