Why was this flight necessary?
Rightly, aviation has some of the strictest safety standards in the world. If you want to introduce a new fuel standard, you need to test, test and test again.
Current regulations state that commercial aircraft can use a maximum of 50% renewable feedstock fuel (also known as SPK) blended with conventional jet fuel. The purpose of this flight was to help build evidence that using 100% renewable content for the fuel is just as reliable – even over 5,000 kilometres of ocean.
The fuel for this flight was a blend of two renewable fuels. Around 88% was SPK. The remainder was synthesized aromatic kerosene (SAK), made from plant sugars, and supplied by Virent. The blend of the two fuels was necessary to ensure the fuel met the aircraft and engine requirements. A lot of science went into this!
But it wasn’t just a question of understanding the chemistry. The bp team developed a detailed plan for every step of the fuelling process, including details on logistics, quality control and safety.
All of this followed extensive trials with sustainable aviation fuel on aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce’s engines – and comes a year after the Royal Air Force took to the skies over Oxfordshire for the UK’s first 100% SAF test flight, for which the SAF was supplied by bp.
And the result? There’s a lot more testing to do – with more flights and more engine types – before using SAF with 100% sustainable feedstock is approved for commercial air travel. But the evidence to date shows that it’s safe – and it works.