The next time you’re about to fry something up using cooking oil, think about this: That oil could power a jumbo jet. That’s right. An Airbus A380 superjumbo completed a three-hour flight from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France. This is a big step towards having more sustainable, environmentally friendly flights.
An Airbus A380 Superjumbo Completed A Flight Powered By Cooking Oil
From the Blagnac airport in Toulouse, France, history was made. An Airbus A380 plane – one of the largest commercial planes in the world – completed a three-hour flight powered by cooking oil. That’s right, not fossil fuels, leftover cooking oil. (1)
The oil used is called Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). This oil is made mainly from used cooking oil and waste fats. The plane also operated using just one singular Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine. This wasn’t the only flight that it completed on that same oil, either. It completed a second flight from Toulouse to Nice to monitor SAF performance during landing and take-off, specifically.
What Was The Fuel Made Of?
TotalEnergies, a sustainable energy company based in Normandy, France, supplied the fuel for the flight. The oil was made of Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA). HEFA is both free of sulfur and aromatics. Airbus has been testing SAF-powered flights for about a year now. Their goal is to have certified SAF-powered aircraft by the end of this decade. Currently, Airbus aircraft can be powered by a blend of 50% SAF oil and traditional kerosene. They hope to have the first zero-emissions aircraft available on the market by 2035.
“Increasing the use of SAF remains a key pathway to achieving the industry’s ambition of netzero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Airbus in a statement. The company claims that flying planes on SAF could net between 53% to 71% of the carbon reductions required to meet that goal.”
A Heavy Carbon Footprint
The global aviation industry has a heavy carbon footprint. Flying, up until now, has been one of the least environmentally-sustainable ways to travel. This has prompted manufacturers and airlines to begin experimenting and working on ways to improve their footprint. The goal is to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050.
This is where innovations like SAF are extremely important. In one engine, SAF reduces emissions by about 75%. Airbus says that using SAF cooking oil could help achieve between 53% and 71% of the required emissions reductions.
“The flight test met all of our requirements, which will enable us to carry out the next phase of the project consisting of specific engine manoeuvers,” Airbus test pilot, Wolfgang Absmeier, said.
SAF says that it is actually carbon-neutral. This is because the organic ingredients of the oil absorb carbon dioxide emissions while they are growing. This combined with how many fewer emissions it produces while in use makes it net-zero.
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Don’t Expect 100% Cooking Oil Powered Flights Soon
While this is certainly a promising step forward for the sustainable flight industry, there are still many details and trials to be figured out before these planes are commercially available. On top of that, it is still too expensive to apply globally in the airline industry. It will likely take another decade or so before cooking oil-powered flights become the norm in the aviation industry. (2)
Airbus isn’t only experimenting with cooking oil to sustainably power their aircraft. They have also been experimenting with hydrogen-powered technology. Airbus partnered with CFM International to create a direct combustion engine that is fueled entirely by hydrogen. The flight will include four liquid hydrogen tanks positioned near the tail. There will also be a hydrogen combustion engine mounted on the side of the fuselage.
Airbus will use these tanks on their ZEROe Aircraft. Their hope is that this plane will be the world’s first zero-emissions commercial aircraft. They are experimenting with several different kinds of planes. We can’t wait until the day that all aircraft are sustainable and flying becomes a more environmentally friendly way to travel.
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