Bell 505 first single-engine helicopter to fly using 100% sustainable aviation fuel; Neste/Virent fuel partnership
25 February 2023
Bell Textron announced that the Bell 505 completed its first flight fueled solely by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), marking the first single-engine helicopter to fly with 100% SAF. Bell collaborated with Safran Helicopter Engines, Neste, GKN Aerospace and Virent to make this Bell 505 flight possible.
To achieve this flight, Bell collaborated with Safran Helicopter Engines, manufacturer of the Arrius 2R engine on the Bell 505; GKN Aerospace, the fuel system component supplier; Neste, the SAF supplier; and Virent, Inc., a Marathon Petroleum Corp. subsidiary that manufactures renewable fuels and chemicals. Safran Helicopter Engines and GKN Aerospace conducted thorough testing on the engine and fuel system components.
Neste and Virent collaborated to blend, test, and deliver the SAF for this project as a 100% drop-in fuel.
SAF is typically a blend of a renewable synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK) fuel and petroleum-based Jet A fuel. Current regulations limit the SPK that can be used in jet fuel to a maximum of 50%, because the SPK products lack aromatics that are necessary to meet current fuel specifications, and also do not have the density required to meet jet fuel specs.
Virent’s synthesized aromatic kerosene (SAK) derived from plant sugars provides the necessary aromatics and density to the SPK fuel, eliminating the need for petroleum products and enabling production of a 100% drop-in SAF that can be used in existing jet engines and infrastructure with no modifications.
Virent’s SAK was added to Neste’s neat SAF, eliminating the need to blend SAF with petroleum fuel.
Bell’s own training fleet and demonstration aircraft currently use SAF in their operations. The team continues to guide customer conversations around its implementation and monitors SAF testing in a dedicated Bell 505 with Safran Helicopter Engines. This flight supports Textron’s Achieve 2025 Sustainable Footprint goal for 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the enterprise, among other sustainability initiatives.
The Bell 505 is a five-seat aircraft that uses a fully integrated Garmin G1000H NXi avionics suite and Safran Arrius 2R engine with a dual-channel FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control). The Arrius 2R is designed to deliver performance and power within the 500 shp range, while improving safety and lowering pilot workload via the dual-channel FADEC. It is the only turbine in the power range with this feature.