100% SAF-powered Airbus A321neo followed by ‘sniffer plane’

Airbus has tested the use of 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on both engines of a A321neo, during a test flight. This is the first Airbus single-aisle aircraft on which this test is conducted. SAF blends are increasingly being used in aviation today; in this test, SAF was not mixed with any fossil fuels.

An A321neo took off from Airbus’ headquarters in Toulouse with both of its engines powered by unblended SAF. The aircraft was being closely followed by a data-collecting ‘sniffer plane’ with the mission to gather information on the non-CO2 emissions and the creation of contrails.

This ‘chase aircraft’, a highly modified Dassault jet from the German Aerospace Center, DLR flew within 100 metres of the A321neo, using the testbed’s sensors to capture emissions data for detailed analysis.

The A321neo’s flights are part of the VOLCAN project, that stands for VOL avec Carburants Alternatifs Nouveaux: ‘Flight with new alternative fuels’.

Analysing the performance of unblended SAF and its promise in reducing emissions (CO2 and non-CO2) is an important step toward the decarbonisation of the aviation industry, and Airbus is once again taking a key role in such forward-looking research.