An RAF Voyager – the military variant of an Airbus A330 – recently took to the skies powered entirely by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The flight over Oxfordshire in the UK will help pave the way for a range of possibilities for the future of flying military and civilian aircraft.
The flight was a joint endeavour between the RAF, DE&S and industry partners Airbus, AirTanker and Rolls-Royce, with the fuel supplied by Air bp.
Sustainable aviation fuel – which is made from waste-based sustainable feedstocks, such as used cooking oil – reduces lifecycle carbon emissions on average by up to 80% compared to the conventional jet fuel it replaces, lessens the RAF’s reliance on global supply chains, and improves operational resilience.
Defence Minister Baroness Goldie said: “The Royal Air Force has flown the UK’s first military air transport flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel on one of their operational Voyager aircraft. The Ministry of Defence should be rightly proud of this.
“Through the RAF’s pioneering spirit, expertise and partnership with UK industry, British science and engineering is leading the way in improving operational resilience and developing future operating capability in a climate-changed world.”
The 90-minute flight from RAF Brize Norton replicated an air-to-air refuelling sortie and was witnessed by senior RAF and industry representatives. It demonstrated the RAF’s potential for its future operational capability, ensuring the ability to contribute to UK defence wherever and whenever required.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston added: “Climate change is a transnational challenge that threatens our resilience, our security and our collective prosperity. That is why I have set the RAF the ambitious challenge of becoming the world’s first net-zero Air Force by 2040. The way we power our aircraft will be key to meeting that challenge and the RAF is already thinking about how we will operate beyond fossil fuels.
“This exciting trial flight of a Voyager from RAF Brize Norton powered entirely by SAF is an important milestone on that journey, and marks another technological first for the RAF alongside our industry partners.”
Engineers from Airbus’ Commercial Aircraft and Defence and Space divisions have been working with the RAF, Rolls-Royce and Airtanker testing the aircraft’s performance and handling on the ground and in the air in preparation for the final flight with both engines powered by 100% SAF.
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