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Bell Textron completes first helicopter flight using SAF

Bell Textron has completed its first flight fueled solely by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with its Bell 505 becoming the first-ever single engine helicopter to fly using 100% SAF. This milestone flight was achieved by a close cooperation between Bell, Safran Helicopter Engines, GKN Aerospace, Neste and Virent. Safran Helicopter Engines, manufacturer of the Arrius 2R engine on the Bell 505, and GKN Aerospace, the fuel system component supplier, conducted thorough testing on the engine and fuel system components. Neste supplied the SAF and collaborated with Virent, the supplier of the bio-based aromatic additive, to blend, test and deliver the SAF for this project as a 100% drop-in fuel. “This flight is a monumental achievement for sustainability and decarbonization in the rotorcraft industry,” said Michael Thacker, executive vice president, Commercial Business, Bell. “Showcasing a single engine aircraft’s flight capabilities with 100% SAF signals Bell’s commitment to alternative fuel usage and builds on its sustainability practices in its flight operations.”“Neste is working closely together with forerunners in the aviation industry on verifying that aircraft can run safely on 100% SAF. This successful collaboration demonstrates that we are one step closer to enabling the entire aviation industry to take full advantage of 100% SAF as the key means to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions of air travel,” said Jonathan Wood, Vice President Global Commercial and Technical, Renewable Aviation at Neste. SAF, made from renewable raw materials, such as used cooking oil, must currently be blended with conventional fossil jet fuel because SAF does not contain a component called “aromatics,” which is required to meet today’s aviation fuel specifications. Virent manufactures an aromatics component made from plant sugars, which was added to Neste’s 100% SAF, eliminating the need to blend SAF with fossil fuel. The SAF supplied for this test flight by Neste is therefore a “100% drop-in” replacement for fossil-based aviation fuel, requiring no engine modifications.

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