On Friday, Airbus launched its alternative fuel research program with the 3-hour flight between Filton, UK and Toulouse, France of an A380 fueled by a Gas to Liquids (GTL) blend.
The double-decker A380 is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines. Shell International Petroleum provided the Shell GTL Jet Fuel. The Airbus tests are running in parallel to the agreement signed in November 2007 with Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Fuels, Qatar Science & Technology Park, Rolls Royce and Shell International Petroleum Company to research the potential benefits of synthetic jet fuel processed from gas. (Earlier post.)
This is the first step of a long-term Airbus testing phase to evaluate viable and sustainable alternative fuels for the future. GTL jet fuel could be available at certain locations to make it a practical and viable drop-in alternative fuel for commercial aviation in the short term, according to the company.
Testing GTL today will support future second generation biofuels such as Fischer-Tropsch biomass-to-liquids (BTL), but which are not presently available in sufficient commercial quantities. Airbus says that it will study viable second generation biofuels when they become available.
GTL synthetic jet fuels are currently being developed to meet international standards required for use in aviation under the auspices of the industry-wide Commercial Alternative Aviation Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) of which Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Shell are all members.
The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) is an aviation industry consortium formed to coordinate the development and commercialisation of drop-in alternative fuels. Under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Certification and Qualification panel of CAAFI has outlined a roadmap for alternative fuels approvals including synthetic fuels derived from the Fisher-Tropsch process.
This roadmap supports the approval of a 50/50 semi-synthetic blend of Jet A /A1 according to the ASTM D 1655 fuel/additive approval protocol by late 2008 and a 100% fuel specification by the end of the decade.
Virgin Atlantic is also planning an alternative fuel test—this one with a biofuel—in one of its Boeing 747s for a London to Amsterdam flight this month.