An Airbus H225 has performed the first helicopter flight using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at Airbus Helicopters’s headquarters in Marignane, France, with the unblended SAF burned in one of the helicopter's two Safran Makila 2 engines. Credit: Airbus.

It is the kind of news item, that might even make “Glum Greta” smile.

An Airbus H225 has performed the first ever helicopter flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) powering one of the Safran Makila 2 engines, the aerospace giant said in a press release.

The flight, which took place at the company’s headquarters in Marignane, marks the start of a flight campaign aiming to assess the impact of unblended SAF on the helicopter systems in view of certifying the use of SAF blends that exceed today’s 50% limit.

“While all Airbus helicopters are certified to fly with up to a 50% blend of SAF mixed with kerosene, it is our Company’s ambition to have its helicopters certified to fly with 100% SAF within the decade,” said Stefan Thome, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Chief Technical Officer, Airbus Helicopters.

“Today’s flight is an important first step towards this goal.”

The flight campaign, which follows earlier unblended SAF bench tests performed by Safran Helicopter Engines at its Bordes plant, will provide further understanding of the technical challenges associated with the use of 100% SAF.

The H225 test helicopter flew with an unblended SAF derived from used cooking oil, provided by TotalEnergies, which offers a net 90% CO2 reduction compared to regular jet fuel.

“SAF is an important pillar of Airbus Helicopters’ decarbonisation strategy because it provides immediate CO2 reduction with no negative impact on the performance of the helicopter,” Thome added.

The Airbus H225 flight crew benefits from the real-time display of power margins, and from automatic features such as automatic level-off at low heights, an automatic collision avoidance procedure, vortex ring protection, automatic rig approach up to the visual decision point, RNP approach down to LPV minima (precision approach), search pattern, automatic transition down to hover (Trans-Down), and fly away. Credit: Airbus.

“I thank our partners Safran Helicopter Engines and TotalEnergies for their important collaboration in making today’s flight a reality.

“Further cooperation among all industry stakeholders is essential to overcome the challenges associated with implementing SAF widely and to make real progress in reducing the aviation industry’s CO2 emissions”.

In order to drive the deployment of biofuels, Airbus Helicopters has launched a SAF User Group dedicated to the rotary-wing community.

The company has also started using SAF for training and test flights at its French and German sites.

The H225 is the choice of commercial operators and governmental agencies for its long range and all-weather search and rescue (SAR) capabilities, according to the Airbus website.

As a reference in its field, the H225’s autopilot provides precision, stability, flight envelope protection, and pilot assistance – including dedicated search and rescue (SAR) upper modes.

The H225 is a true all-weather helicopter, and the only rotorcraft with full de-icing certified for flights up to severe icing conditions.

With a wide choice of mission equipment, a multi-role railed cabin floor, quick role-change capability and a high payload capacity, the H225 can address a wide range of missions such as commercial air transport, SAR, law enforcement, firefighting, medical evacuation (medevac), humanitarian, disaster relief, and aerial work.

Using SAF results in an 80% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the traditional jet fuel it replaces over the lifecycle of the fuel, depending on the sustainable feedstock used, production method and the supply chain to the airport.

Some typical feedstocks used are cooking oil and other non-palm waste oils from animals or plants; solid waste from homes and businesses, such as packaging, paper, textiles, and food scraps that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration.

Other potential sources include forestry waste, such as waste wood, and energy crops, including fast growing plants and algae. 

“Airbus is fully committed to the decarbonization of air transport and believes that sustainable aviation fuels have the potential to become a major driver in reducing CO2 emissions in commercial aviation — for existing fleets and future,” said Steven Le Moing, head of the New Energies program at Airbus.

“Our planes are already capable of integrating a mixture of up to 50% of SAF and our goal is to achieve 100% compatibility by 2030, knowing that these SAFs can today reduce emissions by 80% of CO2 (over the life cycle) and be close in the future to 100% with e-fuels produced with green hydrogen and carbon capture.”

Sources: Airbus,, Newswire