The Bell 505 has completed its first flight fueled by 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel. This flight was the first-ever single-engine helicopter to do so.
It took a collaborative effort to make the flight possible. Bell collaborated with Safran Helicopter engines, the manufacturer of the Arrius 2R engine on the Bell 505, GKN Aerospace who supplied the fuel component system, Neste as the SAF supplier and Virent Inc. a subsidiary that manufactures renewable fuels and chemicals.
"This flight is a monumental achievement for sustainability and decarbonization in the rotorcraft industry," Executive VP of Commercial Business for Bell, Michael Thacker said.
In the collaboration to make the SAF-fueled flight possible, Neste and Virent worked together to blend, test and deliver the SAF for the project as a 100 percent drop-in fuel. SAF is made up of cooking oil or a bio-based feedstock and typically is blended with petroleum products since it does not contain the "aromatics" components that are required to meet aviation fuel specifications.
Virent manufactures an aromatics component that is made from renewable plant sugars. When this component was added to Neste's neat SAF, it eliminated the need to blend the SAF with petroleum fuel. This fuel was a "100 percent drop-in" replacement for traditional petroleum-based fuel since it did not require any engine modifications.
Bell's training and demonstration fleet use SAF in operations and the team has guided customer conversations around the implementation and monitoring of SAF testing with Safran Helicopter Engines. The two companies had a dedicated Bel 505 for testing. The flight is in support of Textron's Achieve 2025 Sustainable Footprint goal for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
"SAF is one of the key pillars in our strategy to decarbonize the helicopter industry," Safran Executive VP of Programs, Valentin Safir, said. "Our engines are certified to operate on up to 50% SAF and our objective is to certify in the coming years the use of 100% SAF, which can potentially result in carbon lifecycle emissions reductions by up to 80%."
The Bell 505 is a five-seat aircraft and uses a fully integrated Garmin G1000H NXi avionics suite. It is equipped with a Safran Arrius 2R engine and dual-channel FSDEC.
"Showcasing a single engine aircraft's flight capability with 100% SAF signals Bell's commitment to alternative fuel usage and builds on its sustainability practices in its flight operations," Thacker said.