Safran Helicopters has signed an agreement to support Austrian HEMS operator ÖAMTC Air Rescue in deploying sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to its Arrius 2B2-powered Airbus H135 fleet.
The partners will initially work to modernize one HEMS helicopter to use 30-50 per cent biofuel, in line with certification on Safran’s modern engines, which can operate on up to 50 per cent biofuel.
The prototype will subsequently undergo research and development testing, with the first flight scheduled by summer 2022. ÖAMTC plans to subsequently roll out SAF at all its bases according to the results of this testing.
A second phase is also planned in which the partners will investigate using 100 per cent SAF, as well as exploring the potential of other power sources such as efuels.
“We are pleased to collaborate with Safran Helicopter Engines on introducing SAF, and to be the first to use it on an Arrius 2B2-powered fleet,” said ÖAMTC Air Rescue CEO Marco Trefanitz.
“Our long experience with the engine and the certified technicians at our maintenance center, Helikopter Air Transport (HeliAir) will support this R&D activity. Another key factor will be the economics: right now, the production of SAF is very costly and prices are high for the end user.”
The project will also employ Safran’s expertise in developing biofuel engine technologies. The company successfully completed a test flight of a Airbus H225 helicopter equipped with a Makila 2 engine fuelled using unblended SAF on 9 November 2021.
The flight is thought to be the first time a helicopter has been successfully run on 100 per cent biofuel during a real flight, however Safran had previously performed bench tests using unblended SAF at its Bordes plant.
Safran Helicopter Engine is also part of a three-year pilot project alongside aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and air rescue provider ADAC Luftrettung, which aims to equip a rescue helicopter to fly emergency missions using bio-kerosine. The project is plans to launch its first flight mission using the converted helicopter on 15 December 2021.
Other aircraft manufacturers are also exploring alternative fuel sources for helicopters, as demand for more environmentally friendly vehicles continues to rise. Bell completed its first flight of a Bell 525 Relentless using blended SAF in the summer of 2021.