A consortium of aerospace companies has launched the first in-flight emissions study leveraging 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on passenger aircraft.

Members of the ‘Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels’ (ECLIF3) project include Airbus, German research centre DLR, Rolls-Royce and SAF producer Neste.

The study will be conducted on Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine-powered Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

Findings from the study will support Airbus and Rolls-Royce’s efforts to decarbonise the aviation industry by implementing SAF on a large scale.

Airbus new energy programme manager Steven Le Moing said: “SAF is a vital part of Airbus’ ambition to decarbonise the aviation industry and we are working closely with a number of partners to ensure a sustainable future for air travel.

“Aircraft can currently only operate using a maximum 50% blend of SAF and fossil kerosene; this exciting collaboration will not only provide insight into how gas-turbine engines function using 100% SAF with a view to certification but identify the potential emissions reductions and environmental benefits of using such fuels in flight on a commercial aircraft too.”

As part of this collaboration, fuel-clearance engine tests began this week. It includes the first flight to check the operational compatibility of using 100% SAF with the aircraft’s systems at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse, France.

Once the engine test is complete, it will be followed by flight-emissions tests in April.

It will be followed by investigation into the emissions impact of using SAF leveraging DLR’s Falcon 20-E ‘chase plane’ later this year.

Rolls-Royce civil aerospace product development and technology director Simon Burr said: “SAF is essential to the decarbonisation of that travel and we actively support the ramp-up of its availability to the aviation industry. This research is essential to support our commitment to understanding and enabling the use of 100% SAF as a low-emissions solution.”

Earlier last month, Rolls-Royce tested 100% SAF on the Pearl 700 business aviation engine for the first time.