Emirates made history with its 1st demonstration flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on a Boeing 777-300ER. The flight, commanded by Captains Fali Vajifdar and Khalid Nasser Akram, took off from Dubai Int’l Airport (DXB) and flew over the Dubai coast for over an hour. Adel Al Redha, Emirates COO, and Capt. Hassan Hammadi, Emirates Flight Operations Div. SVP, accompanied the flight deck crew.
“Year of Sustainability” in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The SAF-powered demonstration flight holds significance as the UAE declares 2023 the “Year of Sustainability”. It highlights the UAE’s commitment to finding innovative solutions to sustainability challenges such as energy and climate change. The flight supports industry efforts towards a future of 100% SAF flying and advances the UAE’s sustainability goals.
Emirates’ first 100% SAF-powered demonstration flight in Middle East and North Africa supports efforts to lower CO2 emissions. It also helps develop best practices for future SAF demonstrations and certification of 100% SAF fuel for aircraft. Currently, SAF can only be used in aircraft in blends up to 50% with conventional jet fuel.
Emirates, with partners GE Aerospace, Boeing, Honeywell, Neste and Virent, procured and developed a blend of SAF that closely mimics conventional jet fuel properties. Chemical and physical fuel tests were done at each blend ratio, leading to a blend with jet fuel-like qualities after multiple lab tests and trials. The 18-tonne SAF blend was made of HEFA-SPK from Neste and HDO-SAK from Virent. One GE90 engine ran on 100% SAF, while the other used conventional jet fuel.
The test flight confirms the safety and reliability of the specially blended SAF. The positive outcome contributes to industry data and research on higher-proportion SAF blends, advancing the standardization and approval of 100% SAF as a replacement for jet fuel, exceeding the current 50% blend limit.
“This flight is a milestone moment for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work collectively to address one of our biggest challenges – reducing our carbon footprint. It has been a long journey to finally see this demonstration 100% SAF flight take off. Emirates is the first passenger airline in the world to operate a Boeing 777 powering a GE engine with 100% SAF. Such initiatives are critical contributors to industry knowledge on SAF, and provide data to demonstrate the use of higher blends of SAF for future regulatory approvals. We hope that landmark demonstrations flights like this one, will help open the door to scale up the SAF supply chain and make it more available and accessible across geographies, and most importantly, affordable for broader industry adoption in the future.”Adel Al Redha, Chief Operating Officer, Emirates Airline
Boeing 777’s APU Achieves Major Milestone with 100% SAF Functionality
The 331-500 auxiliary power unit (APU) is a crucial component of the Boeing 777 aircraft system, providing engine starting, environmental control, and emergency backup for the aircraft on the ground and in flight, using the same fuel as the main engines. However, the APU is only certified for 50% SAF use, so this demonstration marks a major step in demonstrating full APU functionality and capability with 100% SAF, said Mosab Alkubaisy, Director of Airlines at Honeywell Aerospace Middle East:
“We are excited to apply our technology to such a milestone demonstration. The 331-500 auxiliary power unit or APU is an integral part of the Boeing 777 aircraft system. The APU provides main engine starting, environmental control and emergency back-up systems for the aircraft on the ground and in-flight. It uses the same fuel as the main propulsion engines. Currently the APU is certified to run on only 50% SAF, so this demonstration is a big first step in showing full APU functionality and capability when running on 100% SAF.”Mosab Alkubaisy, Director of Airlines, Honeywell Aerospace Middle East.
Achieving net zero by 2050 is crucial for the aviation industry and testing 100% SAF globally through collaborations like this brings us closer to that goal. GE Aerospace’s engines can already operate with approved SAF blends, and they are supporting the approval and widespread use of 100% SAF.
Emirates is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint and has already made significant progress in fuel efficiency, conservation, and operational advancements. The airline endorses IATA’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and is exploring options to increase operational fuel efficiency through SAF, low carbon aviation fuels (LCAF), and renewable energy sources.
Emirates has a comprehensive fuel efficiency program to reduce fuel burn and emissions. The program includes “flex tracks” or flexible routings, which involve creating the most efficient flight plan for each flight through collaboration with air navigation service providers. This effort has been in place since 2003 and Emirates is working with IATA to extend it globally as a standard operating procedure where possible.
Emirates and the SAF
In 2017, Emirates made its first flight powered by a blend of SAF and jet fuel from Chicago O’Hare airport on a Boeing 777. In 2020, the airline received its first delivery of an A380 powered by SAF, and also acquired 32 tonnes of SAF for its flights from Stockholm.
The 100% SAF flight is a demonstration of Emirates’ commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and making the aviation industry greener. The successful outcome of the demonstration provides valuable data for future regulatory approvals and opens the door for the broader industry adoption of SAF. As the aviation industry works towards being net-zero by 2050, initiatives like this one are critical to achieving that goal.
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- Featured Image by Emirates