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Boeing, NASA, United Airlines To Test SAF Benefits with Air-to-Air Flights

Boeing, NASA, United Airlines To Test SAF Benefits with Air-to-Air Flights

Boeing is working with NASA and United Airlines to conduct in-flight tests to determine how sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which reduces the fuel’s climate effect during its life cycle, affects contrails and non-carbon emissions.

In order to conduct testing, United Airlines’ 737-10, Boeing’s second ecoDemonstrator Explorer, will fly with 100% SAF and regular jet fuel in separate tanks as well as alternative fuels. NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab will follow the commercial aircraft and track the emissions from various fuel types and ice particles in the contrail.

As part of the experiment, NASA satellites will take pictures of the production of contrails. The researchers aim to understand how advanced fuels, engine combustor designs and other technologies may reduce atmospheric warming.

 For example, tests will assess how SAF affects the characteristics of contrails, the persistent condensation trails produced when airplanes fly through cold, humid air. While their full impact is not yet understood, some research has suggested certain contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere.

World Energy is supplying SAF for the tests from its Paramount, Calif., facility. Additional support includes:

  • U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is providing funding through the ASCENT Center of Excellence
  • GE Aerospace is providing technical expertise and project funding
  • German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt or DLR) is providing experts and instrumentation 

The study is the most recent stage in a multi-year collaboration between NASA and Boeing to examine how SAF can lower emissions and provide other environmental advantages. SAF, which is created from a variety of sustainably produced feedstocks, has the greatest potential to cut aviation CO2 over the next 30 years and can lower emissions by up to 85% compared to traditional jet fuel. The air quality near airports may be improved by SAF’s reduced soot production.


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