COMAC successfully completed the first flight with SAF on an ARJ21 and a C919

Martin Romero

COMAC completed the first flight using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with an ARJ21 and a C919. The aircraft flew for over an hour during the initial demonstration mission, and refueled with SAF.

The ARJ21 took off from Shanghai Pudong Airport, while the C919 departed from Dongying Airport in Shandong. Both aircraft demonstrated excellent performance using SAF produced in China.

SAF is a type of alternative liquid aviation fuel made from renewable raw materials such as waste oils and fats, household garbage, and energy crops. It can also be synthetic fuels made from carbon dioxide captured from atmospheric or industrial emissions.

This sustainable fuel can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% over its entire lifecycle compared to conventional aviation fuels.

COMAC Joins Its Competitors

COMAC aligns with its main competitors, Airbus and Boeing, in the use of SAF in their aircraft. For the past two decades, manufacturers, along with major airlines and companies in the aviation sector, have been researching the practical application of SAF.

The first airline to use 100% SAF in a commercial flight was Virgin Atlantic with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in November 2023, and the first airport to sell sustainable aviation fuel was Oslo in 2016.

In China, over ten national companies and research institutes are conducting R&D and production activities for SAF. Several airlines have already conducted commercial test flights using domestically produced sustainable aviation fuels.

Since 2022, COMAC has been planning the application of SAF in domestically produced commercial aircraft. The Chinese company has conducted extensive research on the technical standards and test flight methods of SAF both domestically and internationally, as well as technological research and verification of SAF in loaded aircraft.

In February 2024, it obtained approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for airworthiness with SAF. Domestic commercial aircraft are now refueled with eco-friendly aviation fuel, meeting the diverse needs of customers.

Chinese-produced SAF

The SAF used by COMAC is independently developed and produced by SINOPEC, using waste oil from food processing, commonly known as “gutter oil”.

Once recycled, the used oil is processed in the first national industrial plant built by SINOPEC Zhenhai Refining to produce SAF, realizing the eco-friendly utilization of resources.

The volumetric blend ratio of this aviation biofuel with the most commonly used aviation fuel is 40%, and all physical parameters match those of traditional petroleum-derived fuels, conforming to national standards and industry requirements.

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