- RAF’s VIP Voyager refuels four Eurofighter Typhoons with SAF blend over the North Sea
UK, 3rd May, 2023. One-hundred years since the first ever air-to-air refuelling of an aircraft, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) has carried out a landmark in-flight refuelling exercise with blended sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using an Airbus Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Voyager aircraft.
On a crisp Spring morning in the Oxfordshire countryside, the RAF’s VIP Voyager – emblazoned with Union Flag tail and gold-lettered ‘United Kingdom’ livery – taxied on to the Brize Norton runway filled with 43% SAF.
On board were UK Business and Trade Minister Nusrat Ghani MP, members of the media and Airbus’ Filton-based engineer Loraine McIlree, who had led the team which successfully flew the Voyager on 100% SAF from Brize in November.
Loraine said: “Last year, we had the opportunity to push the boundaries and performed a flight test on an in-service military aircraft. I led the technical team for this project and we successfully flew an RAF Voyager A330 MRTT with 100% SAF on both engines, with no fossil fuel on board.
“All our aircraft have been designed to operate with normal jet fuels. SAF has different properties but from our testing we are able to demonstrate how capable our aircraft are for flying with a new type of fuel.
“To clear the aircraft to fly with 100% SAF requires a thorough analysis of all parts of the aircraft impacted by fuel. All materials need to be checked for compatibility, together with the systems adjacent to the fuel tanks. It took months of work to obtain the clearance and it was a great moment to witness the Voyager fly last November with 100% SAF. The flight crew reported no difference in performance during the flight and we captured a lot of data to help us progress towards clearing SAF on our aircraft.”
April’s demonstration flight took sustainability to a new level – refuelling four Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets with blended SAF. The exercise was timed to coincide with the start of the Farnborough Sustainable Skies World Summit, and the VIP Airbus Voyager performed a 500ft low fly-past over Farnborough before landing back at Brize Norton.
Air Vice-Marshal Paul Lloyd said: Providing increased reliability and range, the Voyager aircraft gives the RAF an enhanced capability in support of troop mobility, the movement of military assets, and supports UK air defence.
“With a payload of 43 tonnes of freight and 291 seat passenger capacity, plus an aeromedical evacuation capability, Voyager also delivers flexibility in air mobility to the UK Armed forces in support of military and humanitarian operations.”
During the two days of the Sustainable Skies World Summit, the Jet Zero Council – a partnership between industry and government with the aim of delivering at least 10% SAF in the UK fuel mix by 2030 and zero emission transatlantic flight within a generation – also met.
Defence Minister Baroness Goldie added: “The RAF has identified that using SAF and alternative aviation fuels will be critical for the future operational capability of the RAF and wider military aviation.
“The UK’s SAF programme is already one of the most comprehensive in the world and supports our vision to set the UK up to be a global leader in the development, production, and use of SAF.”