Airbus Begins Using Sustainable Fuels To Power The Beluga Fleet

Airbus has operated one of its Beluga cargo planes with 35% sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) from its Broughton plant for the first time. The A300-600ST took off from Hawarden Airport, where the manufacturer’s Broughton factory is located, as it looks to accelerate the decarbonization of its industrial operations.

Airbus Begins Using Sustainable Fuels To Power The Beluga Fleet
Airbus will power its Beluga fleet with sustainable fuels. Photo: Getty Images

Airbus uses a 35% sustainable blend

Airbus’ Broughton plant, where the company manufactures wings for its aircraft, is using sustainable fuels to power its fleet of Beluga cargo aircraft. The company flew one of its A300-600ST ‘Beluga’ planes with a 35% blend of SAF and plans to operate 60 more flights in the next three months with sustainable fuels.

Airbus has a fleet of five Beluga cargo planes, which it uses to transport outsized cargo, such as wings, fuselage and even space program parts. At its Broughton plant, Beluga’s are used to transport aircraft wings to Toulouse, Hamburg and Bremen. Broughton becomes the second location where Airbus has powered its Beluga fleet with sustainable fuels. The manufacturer first started using SAFs for its Beluga cargo operations in Hamburg in 2019.

Airbus Begins Using Sustainable Fuels To Power The Beluga Fleet
The maiden sustainable flight from Broughton was operated by Beluga #5 (F-GSTF). Photo: Gyrostat via Wikimedia Commons

The aircraft in question is Beluga #5, which has the registration F-GSTF and is fitted with two GE CF6 engines. The plane is over 20 years old and conducted the first of 60 sustainable flights Airbus plans for its Beluga and BelugaXL fleet over the next few months.

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Reducing carbon emissions with SAF

The sustainable fuel is supplied by Air BP, the specialized aviation department of parent company British Petroleum (BP). The fuel itself is made up of sustainable feedstocks, such as cooking oil, and is certified to operate at up to a 50% blend. However, Airbus will be conducting flights with a 35% blend for the time being, claiming that over 400t of carbon dioxide emissions will be spared over the next three months.

Tony Derrien, Sustainable Aviation Fuels Project Manager at Airbus, said,

“This first flight by a Beluga transporter from Broughton, partially fuelled with SAF, marks an important milestone in Airbus’ ambition to decarbonise its industrial operations.”

Airbus BelugaXL
A sustainable blend of 35% SAF, supplied by Air BP, will power the fleet. Photo: Airbus

Andy Owen, Beluga Line Station Manager at Broughton, said,

“The progressive deployment of sustainable aviation fuels at Airbus’ sites is an essential part of our decarbonization roadmap. We’re proud that Broughton has become the second Airbus site to introduce SAF in its Beluga-fleet operations.”

The future of the Beluga fleet

Airbus has developed the BelugaXL (A330-743L) to continue its outsize cargo operations as it phases out the older A300-600ST Beluga’s. The manufacturer added three BelugaXL planes to its fleet in 2020, with plans for three more to arrive by 2024.

Less demand for new planes has meant a reduction in flights for the Beluga fleet. Photo: Airbus

Beluga operations have been hit by the pandemic. With fewer airlines ordering planes, there is far less demand for aircraft parts to be flown. Airbus has instead deployed the Beluga for humanitarian missions over the past year.

Do you think sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) have a big future in the industry? Let us know your insights in the comments.