An Airbus A350 fueled by 100% SAF takes off

The test flight, conducted on March 16, 2021, is the first in a series of clearance tests scheduled this month to analyze the safety of 100% SAF. Then, in April, DLR’s Falcon 20E “chase” aircraft equipped with a “sniffer” (i.e. sensors) will follow 50 metres behind the A350 test aircraft to measure the emissions directly from the SAF-fueled engine exhaust.

Indeed, over the past decade, SAF has demonstrated its efficacy in reducing CO2 emissions when used as a substitute for conventional or fossil-based jet fuel. However, little research has been carried out on how SAF can have a positive impact on other aircraft emissions. This means the industry can paint only half the picture of aviation’s overall climate impact.

“Decarbonizing aviation is not just about reducing CO2 emissions,” Steven explains. “At Airbus, our priority is to deal with the complete climate-impact challenge, which includes overall greenhouse gases and other aircraft emissions. Our decarbonization plan focuses on accelerating technology development to this end, in complement to a dynamic deployment of SAF.”

For this reason, the project will help to better analyze the impact of other climate-relevant emissions from aircraft engines, including:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NOx)
  • Water vapor
  • Soot
  • Aerosol and sulphate aerosol particles
  • Contrails and contrail cirrus clouds (i.e. clouds of ice crystals produced by aircraft engines at high altitude under certain meteorological conditions)


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