Boeing, NASA and United Airlines test SAFs in real flight conditions

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The Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explorer, as well as a United Airlines 737-10, will fly with SAF, followed by NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab which will measure emissions other than CO2. The aim of the project is to investigate how SAF can reduce soot and impact contrails. – With support from the FAA, GE Aerospace, German Aerospace Center (DLR) and World Energy.

ecoDemonstrator, Airborne Science Lab and satellites

Test full-scale advantages and disadvantages of SAF, in particular their influence on condensation trails and the development of soot. This is what Boeing, United Airlines and NASA will study through a joint flight test program. Boeing’s second ecoDemonstrator Explorer, a 737-10 for United Airlines, will fly on 100% SAF fuel and conventional kerosene in separate tanks and alternative fuels during testing. NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab will fly behind the commercial jet and measure emissions from each fuel type and ice particles from contrails. NASA satellites will capture images of contrail formation as part of the tests.

Impact of SAF on contrails

Researchers seek to understand how advanced fuels, engine combustion chamber designs and other technologies can reduce atmospheric warming. For example, the tests will assess the impact of SAF on the characteristics of contrails, the persistent contrails produced when aircraft fly in cold, humid air. Although their impact is not yet fully understood, some research has suggested that some contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere.

With the assistance of GE, DLR

World Energy is providing the SAF for testing from its facilities in Paramount, California. Additional support is provided through the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which funds the ASCENT Center of Excellence, GE Aerospace provides technical expertise and project funding while DLR, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt is the equivalent of our ONERA provides experts and instruments.

Reduced soot

This project is the latest phase of a multi-year partnership between Boeing and NASA to analyze how SAF can reduce emissions and provide other environmental benefits. Compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF – made from a range of sustainably produced raw materials – can reduce emissions by up to 85% over the fuel life cycle and offers the greatest potential for reducing emissions. CO2 emissions from aviation over the next 30 years. SAF also produces less soot, which can improve air quality near airports.

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