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Rolls-Royce has successfully completed a test flight of its B747 Flying Testbed aircraft using 100 per cent Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a Trent 1000 engine.

The aircraft flew from Tucson airport in Arizona, passing over New Mexico and Texas, with a Trent 1000 engine running solely on 100 per cent SAF while the remaining three RB211 engines ran on standard jet fuel, arriving back at the airport three hours and 54 minutes later. Rolls Royce says that initial indications confirm there were no engineering issues, providing further proof of the fuel’s suitability for commercial use.

Last week Rolls Royce confirmed that all of its Trent engines will be compatible with 100 per cent SAF by 2023. Aircraft are currently only certified to operate on a maximum of 50 per cent SAF blended with conventional jet fuel.

The flight was carried out in close collaboration with Boeing, which provided technical support and oversight on aircraft modifications and assurance the aircraft systems would operate as expected with 100 per cent SAF. World Energy, the world’s first and America’s only commercial-scale SAF production company, provided the low-carbon fuel for the flight.

The US Biden administration recently launched a Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge aiming to produce three billion gallons of the fuel a year by 2030. The European Commission has also created a ReFuelEU Aviation proposal that would mandate the incorporation of SAF supplied at EU airports. This would increase to 63 per cent by 2050.

Simon Burr, Rolls-Royce, Director Product Development and Technology – Civil Aerospace, said: “We believe in air travel as a force for cultural good, but we also recognise the need to take action to decarbonise our industry. This flight is another example of collaboration across the value chain to make sure all the aircraft technology solutions are in place to enable a smooth introduction of 100 per cent SAF into our industry.”

Source: Rolls-Royce / BTN