Airbus completes Japan’s first SAF-powered helicopter flight

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Japan’s Airbus Helicopters and Nakanihon Air (NNK), Japan’s leading helicopter operator, have jointly conducted the country’s first-ever helicopter flight powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). NNK’s H215 helicopter completed a 30-minute flight from Nagoya Airport in Aichi Prefecture.

The aircraft was fueled with 600 liters of “SUSTEO 10”, a renewable jet fuel produced by Japan’s leading biofuel maker Euglena. SUSTEO contains 10% SAF mixed with Jet A-1.

The four-bladed, twin-engine, heavy-lift H215 helicopter is part of the Super Puma family of helicopters, known for its high availability, performance and competitive operating cost. Powered by a pair of Turbomeca Makila 1A1 turboshaft engines, the rotorcraft is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, a large reconfigurable cabin, a wide range of equipment options, a goggle compatible cockpit night and all-weather capability that includes a full de-icing system. The versatile aircraft can perform a variety of tasks and be used in different missions, including law enforcement, passenger transport, firefighting and disaster relief.

“Today’s SAF flight test is very important for our company as we work to reduce the CO2 emitted during flights in an effort to combat climate change issues,” said Hajime Futagami, chairman of Nakanihon Air. “Locally produced SAF is an immediate approach to reducing carbon emissions for the helicopter market. We look forward to continued support from Airbus in our large-scale operations in Japan, with the increased precision and stability that we need.

Currently, all Airbus helicopters are certified to fly with up to 50% SAF mixed with kerosene. The objective is to achieve 100% SAF in coordination with engine manufacturers.

In 2021, the Airbus H225 performed the first-ever helicopter flight with 100% SAF powering one of Safran Makila 2 engines. Since SAF is a much cleaner alternative to conventional jet fuel, helicopter operations with 100% SAF would result in an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions.

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