Diamond DA42 Makes First SAF Flight

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Diamond Aircraft said one of its DA42-VI light twins recently flew for the first time using sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, at the Bremen Airport (EDDW) in Germany. The company reports that the airplane, which is part of the training fleet of the European Flight Academy—an operation under Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT)—flew circuits around the airport after a period of testing and preparation involving Diamond, LAT and engine manufacturer Austro Engine.

The joint event marked the beginning of extensive testing with blended SAF aimed at making flight training for Lufthansa pilots more sustainable. Results of the current testing will help determine whether SAF can eventually become the sole fuel for the European Flight Academy, the companies said. Diamond Aircraft and Austro Engine anticipate increasing the availability of SAF blends as a “drop-in” fuel for general aviation and releasing the entire fleet to use the blended fuel by the end of 2025.

Bremen Airport was chosen for the demonstration flight in part because it is among the first airports in Germany to stock SAF provided by World Fuel Services. The fuel is refined from oil waste, aquatic plants and soil-based plants in Ghent, Belgium. The process includes hydrogenating the oils and fats prior to refining them in a manner similar to fossil fuels, Diamond said.


This article originally appeared on FLYING.com. For more great content like this, check out FLYING!

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Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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7 COMMENTS

  1. One problem with “sustainable” fuels is that there are myriad ways of producing a diesel-grade fuel that will burn in an engine. And, diesel and turbine engines will burn just about anything that is a combustible liquid. The main issue is consistently producing something that does not turn to Jello at cold temperatures, or leave undesirable deposits in the combustion chambers, etc. Oh, and it would be nice if it was similar in price to the petroleum-based stuff. Can it be done? Sure. For almost a decade, Valero Energy has been producing a diesel fuel substitute from beef tallow and waste cooking oils. It is virtually identical to petroleum diesel and can be used as a stand-alone fuel – no blending needed. They produce it only as a highway diesel and not jet fuel, mainly due to the extra cost, liability and paperwork hassle associated with jet fuel. But they could produce jet quality with no significant modifications.

    So what’s the problem, you ask? Availability of feedstock. Valero could expand production, but that would mean finding additional sources of tallow and waste vegetable oils, which would incur more cost to collect and transport those materials back to the refinery. All that adds to the cost of production. There are no pipelines to move such products, so truck and rail are needed, which is expensive and burns lots of fossil fuels. You can substitute crop-based oils for waste oils, but the transportation issue remains the same, plus you then have fuel crops competing with food crops for land use.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, so let me get to the point. While I firmly support the conversion of waste products into useable transportation fuels, one has to be realistic about the potential for sustainable fuels. The world consumes around 100 million gallons of jet fuel a DAY. Cooking oils and beef waste is a mere trickle of that volume, so crop-based oils would be necessary to make any significant contribution to that demand. We already have an issue with midwestern farmers growing corn for ethanol for car gas as opposed to food crops. Additional fuel production will impact food crops even more. Once again, there is no free lunch, no magic bullet that will solve our dependency on fossil fuels.