The largest passenger plane in the world, the Airbus A380 , has just completed a test flight running completely on cooking oil. The double-decker A380 took off from Toulouse in southern France on March 25th 2022, and the flight lasted for 3 hours before touching down in the same place. Later that day a second test flight using the same fuel took off from Toulouse and landed in Nice, France. The fuel is referred to as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and is made up of used cooking oil and other waste fats. Using SAFs in jet fuel isn’t new with airlines such as KLM currently using a blend of traditional jet fuel and up to 50% SAF on some international flights.
The A380 isn’t the first Airbus plane to fly using 100% SAFs. Last year an A350 and an A319neo performed successful test flights in March and October respectfully. Aeroplane makers and airlines are in a race to try and make flying carbon neutral. The aviation industry as a whole has a target to have net zero carbon emissions by 2050. On top of this some countries have set ambitious targets, such as Denmark which planes to have all domestic flights fossil fuel free by 2030.
It’s not just cooking oil, hydrogen-based planes are on the horizon.
To achieve the goal of carbon-neutral, the aviation industry isn’t putting all of its fruit in one basket. Whilst SAF-based fuels makes sense as existing engines can be converted to use SAFs, other fuel types are being explored. One of those is hydrogen, where the only byproduct is water, with no carbon emissions produced. Airbus is teaming up with Delta Airlines to develop the world first zero-emission hydrogen aircrafts called ZEROe.
Airbus are currently planning three different ZEROe designs; the first two designs a turbo prop and turbofan look like traditional planes but feature hybrid-hydrogen turboprop and turbofan engines. The third design is a futuristic designed Blended-Wing plane with liquid hydrogen storage tanks stored underneath the wings and two hybrid-hydrogen turbofan engines to provide thrust. It plans to bring these planes to the market by 2035.