BRA, in collaboration with manufacturer ATR and fuel supplier NESTE, performed the world’s first true 100% sustainable aviation fuel commercial flight from Malmö to Stockholm on 21 June. The 1 hour 11 minute flight was operated by ATR 72-600 SE-MKK, one of BRA’s 14 ATR 72 aircraft.
This was the first flight operated by a commercial aircraft on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in both engines. Current regulations permit a maximum 50% mix of SAF and traditional jet fuel for regular operations. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency provided an exemption for this demonstration flight.
What is sustainable aviation fuel?
Sustainable aviation fuel is fuel derived from waste products and renewable resources as opposed to refine petroleum. The SAF used for the BRA flight was NESTE’s “MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel,” a blend of renewable and sustainable raw materials from waste, such as used cooking oil, animal fat and waste fish fat. NESTE claims that SAF reduces the total carbon life cycle emissions by 80%. In addition to the reduction in carbon emissions, NESTE says its SAF emits fewer oxide and particulates.
Why is this flight important?
Airlines around the world have committed to powering their fleets with sustainable aviation fuel as soon as possible, including some of the largest like United Airlines, Air France + KLM Group, and Qantas. This 100% SAF flight adds to the growing proof that SAFs are a reliable source of propulsion and ready for certification for use beyond a 50% blend. ATR says it hopes to certify the full ATR 72 fleet for complete SAF use by 2025. The aviation industry has committed to sustainable aviation fuel as the fastest way to reduce overall emissions from flights and this BRA flight is another milestone along the way to wider adoption across the industry.
Challenges to SAF adoption remain
While this flight is an important step toward SAF use throughout the industry, myriad challenges remain to the wholesale adoption of sustainable aviation fuel. First and foremost, the price of SAF is currently well above that of traditional jet fuel, even with the current dramatic rise in the price of oil over the past year. Second, availability remains limited due to refining capacity and source feed stock resources. As the industry grows, availability will increase and prices should fall, but will that happen fast enough for airlines to meet their ambitious SAF targets?