April 18, 2024
Aviation Sustainability

Emirates flies A380 demonstration flight with 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Only one of the four engines was powered by SAF

Emirates Airline has made aviation history by becoming the world’s first airline to operate an Airbus A380 demonstration flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

The milestone flight, commanded by Captain Khalid Binsultan and Captain Philippe Lombet, took off from Dubai International Airport (DXB) on November 22, 2023, with one of its four engines powered exclusively by SAF, showcasing the viability of SAF as a sustainable alternative to traditional jet fuel.

SAF, known for its potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 85% over the fuel’s life cycle compared to conventional jet fuel, is positioned as a key player in the aviation industry’s efforts to address environmental concerns.

The demonstration flight aims to pave the way for standardisation, qualification, and widespread adoption of 100% SAF flying, aligning with global strategies to support the production and scale-up of SAF.

Proving the feasibility of SAF

The successful A380 demonstration flight underscores the performance and compatibility of SAF, emphasising its safety and reliability as a fuel source.

The flight contributes to the growing body of research within the aviation industry evaluating the positive effects of 100% SAF on aircraft performance.

Currently capped at a 50% blend limit for commercial flights, SAF is poised for increased adoption as governments and industry stakeholders work towards more sustainable aviation practices.

The timing of Emirates’ A380 demonstration flight coincides with the Third International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) in Dubai.

Noteworthy collaboration from aviation industry leaders, including Airbus, Engine Alliance, Pratt & Whitney, Neste, Virent, and ENOC, played a crucial role in testing, technical assessments, and data analysis for the successful flight.


This marks the first instance of using drop-in SAF on an A380 aircraft, with the expectation of full compatibility across the existing systems of the world’s largest aircraft. The four-tonne SAF load for the demonstration flight included HEFA-SPK from Neste and HDO-SAK from Virent, demonstrating the ability to mimic conventional jet fuel characteristics closely.

Emirates collaborated with ENOC to secure the neat SAF, blending it with Sustainable Aviation Kerosene (SAK) at its facility at Dubai International Airport.

The 100% SAF was used in one Engine Alliance GP7200 engine, while conventional jet fuel powered the other three engines. Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW980 auxiliary power unit (APU) also ran on 100% SAF.

Adel Al Redha, Chief Operating Officer of Emirates Airline, emphasised the growing global demand for lower-emission jet fuel alternatives. He highlighted the critical role of producers and suppliers in commercialising SAF, stating that their efforts will be instrumental in advancing the industry’s path to lower carbon emissions.

Julie Kitcher, Airbus Executive Vice President of Communications and Corporate Affairs, expressed pride in witnessing Emirates operate an A380 powered by an engine running on 100% SAF. Amy Johnston, the president of Engine Alliance, also praised the strong relationship between Engine Alliance and Emirates.

Reflecting on the achievement, Aziz Koleilat, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Turkey at GE Aerospace, highlighted the importance of innovation and collaboration in reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Emirates’ recent partnership expansion with Neste for the supply of over three million gallons of blended SAF in 2024 and 2025 further underlines the airline’s commitment to sustainable aviation. Emirates continues to uplift SAF in Norway and France and aims to use SAF at various airports as supply becomes available.

Featured image: The Emirates A380 aircraft gets partly fuelled with SAF at Dubai International Airport. Image: Emirates

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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