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China’s first helicopter flight using sustainable aviation fuel

Safran Helicopter Engines Powered the First Flight of SAF Helicopter in China

An Airbus H125 helicopter belonging to State Grid Space Technology Co., Ltd (SGST) has successfully used sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for a flight demonstration at Hefei Shiwan Airport in China. This is the first helicopter flight using SAF in China, marking an important milestone in the development of low-carbon aviation in Chinese aeronautics. The H125, which is powered by a Safran Arriel 2D engine, flew at a hybrid ratio of 40% of SAF provided by CNAF (China National Aviation Fuel).

Safran Helicopter Engines Powered the First Flight of SAF Helicopter in China-1

The Board Chairman of SGST Mr. Du Guihe also congratulates the successful test flight, and states: "The success of this flight is of great significance to stimulate the SAF promotion and application. It makes a positive impact on the enterprises which are proactive on 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.

“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 solution. With our main partners SGST and Airbus Helicopters, we will make further contribution to promote our joint vision of green aviation”, said Marc Delort, General Manager of Safran Helicopter Engines China.

SGST is the first partner of Safran helicopter engines in the field of helicopter SAF application in China. In March 2023, the two parties signed the MoU on SAF Cooperation in response to China's vision of "carbon peaking, carbon neutrality" and deepening cooperation in promoting the application of SAF in civil turboshaft helicopters.

“I am proud that our customer, SGST, launched this noteworthy SAF flight with the H125, marking Airbus Helicopters as the first helicopter manufacturer to perform a SAF flight in China,” said Colin James, Managing Director of Airbus Helicopters in China. “In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and set a standard within the industry, we are working with our partners to use locally-produced SAF.” 

Safran Helicopter Engines Powered the First Flight of SAF Helicopter in China-2

With all its engine range already certified to operate on up to 50% SAF, Safran objective is to certify in 2025 the use of 100% SAF, which can potentially result in carbon lifecycle emissions reductions by up to 80%.

Safran Helicopter Engines worldwide achievements on SAF:

  • In June 2021, in Germany, an H145 rescue helicopter equipped with the Arriel 2E engine flew with 40% SAF produced from recycled edible oil and 60% traditional fuel.
  • In July 2021, in France, ground test completed on an Arrano helicopter engine with 38% SAF.
  • In September 2021, in Bordes factory, we successfully ran a Makila 2A1 engine with 100% biofuel.
  • In June 2022, in France, an H225 helicopter made its first flight with two Makira 2 engines which were using 100% SAF.