China flies its first SAF-powered helicopter


China has completed its first helicopter flight using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) during a demonstration by China’s State Grid Space Technology (SGST) at Hefei Shiwan Airport, East China. The Airbus H125 aircraft, powered by a Safran Ariel 2D engine, flew with a 40% SAF blend provided by China National Aviation Fuel (CNAF).

The development comes just weeks after Airbus and the CNAF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to scale up Chinese-European cooperation on the production and application for SAF during the French state visit to China.

“The success of this flight is of great significance to stimulate SAF promotion and its application,” said Du Guihe, chairman, SGST. “It makes a positive impact on the enterprises which are proactive on low-carbon general aviation development. It is also a breakthrough for China’s general aviation industry to better implement carbon emission reduction in the post-pandemic era.”

According to Airbus, the partnership agreement with CNAF aims to optimise the SAF supply chain by enhancing SAF production towards Airbuses ambition of using 10% SAF by 2030

Colin James, MD, Airbus Helicopters China said that the demonstration is part of the helicopter manufacturer’s aim of working with its global partners to use locally produced SAF for its aircraft. “I am proud that our customer, SGST, launched this noteworthy SAF flight with the H125, marking Airbus Helicopters as the first helicopter manufacturer to perform a SAF flight in China,” said James.

Airbus helicopters are all capable of flying with a blend of up to 50% SAF mixed with kerosene, with the goal of having aircraft operate with 100% SAF by 2030. Marc Delort, general manager, Safran Helicopter Engines China added that the engine manufacturer also had a portfolio of engines certified to operate on 50% SAF.

“The takeoff of SAF-powered helicopters in China once again illustrates the achievements of Safran Helicopter Engines in terms of innovation and SAF application,” said Delort. “With our main partners SGST and Airbus Helicopters, we will make further contributions to promote our joint vision of green aviation.”

Recently, Airbus Helicopters agreed to sell 50 H160 medium utility twin-engine helicopters to Chinese helicopter lessor and operator GDAT. The deal is the largest single order for the H160 helicopter on the civil and parapublic market since the helicopter was unveiled.