Wings Magazine

Airbus completes first test flight with alternative fuel on civil aircraft

An Airbus A380 aircraft has successfully completed the world’s first ever flight by a commercial aircraft using a liquid fuel processed from gas (Gas to Liquids - GTL).

February 5, 2008  By Carey Fredericks

Feb. 1, 2008 – An Airbus A380 aircraft has successfully completed the world’s
first ever flight by a commercial aircraft using a liquid fuel
processed from gas (Gas to Liquids – GTL) in the first stage of a test
flight programme to evaluate the environmental impact of alternative
fuels in the airline market. The flight from Filton, UK to Toulouse,
France, lasted three hours. The flight was piloted by Hugues van-der-Stichel and Frank Chapman.

The A380, today’s most fuel efficient airliner, is powered by
Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines. Shell International Petroleum provided
the Shell GTL Jet Fuel. The tests are running in parallel to the
agreement signed in November 2007 with the Qatar GTL consortium
partners and the results will be shared.
The A380 was chosen because the aircraft is already the
environmental benchmark in air travel. It has four engines including
segregated fuel tanks making it ideal for engine shut down and re-light
tests under standard evaluation conditions. During the flight, engine
number one was fed with a blend of GTL and jet fuel whilst the
remaining three were fed with standard jet fuel.
Under Airbus’ overall alternatives fuels research programme, this is the first step of a long-term Airbus
testing phase to evaluate viable and sustainable alternative fuels for
the future. GTL could be available at certain locations to make it a
practical and viable drop-in alternative fuel for commercial aviation
in the short term. GTL has attractive characteristics for local air
quality, as well as some benefits in terms of aircraft fuel burn
relative to existing jet fuel. For instance, it is virtually free of
sulphur. Synthetic fuel can be made from a range of hydrocarbon source
material including natural gas or organic plant matter made by a
process called Fischer-Tropsch.
Testing GTL today will support future second generation bio-fuels,
but which are not presently available in sufficient commercial
quantities. Airbus will study viable second generation bio-fuels when
they become available.
Sjoerd Post, Vice President Shell Aviation said “we are pleased to
have successfully completed this flight, which will pave the way for
approval of synthetic jet fuel in the future, we are proud to be part
of this consortium which is exploring cleaner fuels for the Aviation
“This has been a great achievement. Fuel and environment are key
challenges aviation is facing and for which technology and
international research collaboration open up new horizons. Our
alternative fuels roadmap requires innovation, diversity of ideas and
options that need to be explored, said Airbus President and CEO Tom
Enders. “This takes bold cross industry and cross border collaboration
and that's what we are showing today with our groundbreaking first test
flight with alternative fuels. It is part and parcel of Airbus'
commitment to providing leadership as an eco-efficient enterprise”.


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