On 12 June 2023, the Airbus H125 helicopter performed its first flight demonstration at Hefei Shiwan Airport in Anhui China, using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The Safran ARRIEL 2D-powered H125 rotorcraft flew at a hybrid ratio of 40% SAF supplied by China National Aviation Fuel (CNAF).

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The H125 is a member of the Airbus Ecureuil family, which has accumulated over 38 million flight hours worldwide, with a range of 340 nautical miles.

According to Airbus, the H125 is a world record holder, making the highest altitude landing and take off from Mount Everest in 2005 at 8,848 metres and still continuing that performance record to the current day.

SGST board chairman Du Guihe highlighted the positive impact of H125 flight and how it can bolster motivation for other companies across the aviation industry: “The success of this flight is of great significance to stimulate SAF promotion and its application.

“It makes a positive impact on the enterprises which are proactive in low-carbon general aviation development. It is also a breakthrough for China’s general aviation industry to better implement carbon emission reduction in the post-pandemic era.”

This milestone follows the memorandum of understanding agreement between Airbus and the CNAF which was set to intensify Chinese-European cooperation on the production, application and common standards formulation for SAF.

Adding to this the agreement between Airbus and CNAF the collaboration intends to improve the SAF supply chain by diversifying sources and increasing SAF production in order to achieve the goal of utilising 10% SAF by 2030.

Marc Delort, general manager of Safran Helicopter Engines, said that China has emphasised their visions of sustainable aviation and how their collaboration with Airbus will bring them closer to their goals.

Delort said: “The takeoff of SAF-powered helicopters in China once again illustrates the achievements of Safran Helicopter Engines in terms of innovation and SAF application. We have a full engine portfolio certified to operate on up to 50% of SAF.

“We would like to recall hereby our willingness to play an active role in China by providing propulsion solutions. With our main partners SGST and Airbus Helicopters, we will make further contributions to promote our joint vision of green aviation.”

According to the International Air Transport Association, SAF may contribute up to 65% of the emissions reduction required by aviation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, therefore by connecting this with the new milestone achieved by Airbus, they are on the correct path to a sustainable aviation future.

This achievement follows one of many between Airbus and China, which explores the use of SAF, including the implementation of SAF for commercial flights in China in 2022.