Rolls-Royce Flies A Trent 1000 Engine On 100% Sustainable Fuel

Rolls-Royce’s Boeing 747 engine testbed was recently spotted with anything but a Boeing 747 engine under its wing. The aircraft carried a Trent 1000 engine, demonstrating that it could run the model on a blend of 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).

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Rolls-Royce has flown a Trent 1000 engine on a blend of 100% SAF. Photo: Rolls-Royce

While aviation only accounts for 2-3% of global man made CO2 output, the entire industry is keen to reduce emissions. One of the ways that airlines can reduce the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere when they fly is by using SAFs. Unfortunately, the usage of SAFs is currently limited to use when blended with traditional fossil fuels.

100% SAF flight

Rolls-Royce has completed a flight with a Boeing 747 using 100% SAFs on a single Trent 1000 engine. The flight took place out of Tucson Airport in Arizona and lasted three hours and 54 minutes. The flight took place on October 15th, with the aircraft becoming airborne at 09:00, according to

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The flight took the plane in the skies above Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Photo:

Having taken off, the aircraft hugged the Mexican border, flying down to Texas. Once above Texas, the plane flew back and forth in a figure of eight, reaching a maximum altitude of 43,000 feet before returning to Tucson.

What is Rolls-Royce trying to achieve?

Rolls-Royce wants all of its Trent family engines to be compatible with a 100% blend of SAF by 2023 as part of the industry-wide goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Currently, only a 50/50 mix of SAF and fossil fuels is approved. Rolls-Royce has previously shown that the Airbus A350’s Trent XWB engine can fly on 100% SAF.

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The engine manufacturer wants its entire Trent product line to run on 100% SAFs by 2023. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Commenting on the milestone, Simon Burr, Director Product Development and Technology – Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce, said,

“We believe in air travel as a force for cultural good, but we also recognise the need to take action to decarbonise our industry. This flight is another example of collaboration across the value chain to make sure all the aircraft technology solutions are in place to enable a smooth introduction of 100% SAF into our industry.”

Why use a Boeing 747?

You may be wondering why Rolls-Royce is using the Boeing 747 to test engines used on the Boeing 787. It’s all to do with one of the features that make the 747 more unique than most other aircraft types.

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The 747 is used as it has three fully certified backup engines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

The Boeing 747 has four engines. This means that if the engine being tested fails, the aircraft still has the power of the three fully certified engines. If the engine were being tested on a twinjet, the aircraft would be reduced to the power of a single engine.

World’s Largest Engine: Hear about the Rolls-Royce UltraFan at Simple Flying’s Future Flying Forum in November.

Rolls-Royce is currently using a 41.56 year old Boeing 747-200 as an engine testbed. According to data from, N787RR was initially delivered to Cathay Pacific in 1980. The plane flew with the Hong Kong-based airline for almost two decades, leaving for cargo carrier Air Atlanta Iceland from 1999 to 2005. It then became the Rolls-Royce testbed 16 years ago.

Rolls Royce, Qantas, AeroTEC, Boeing 747
In late 2019 Rolls-Royce acquired an ex-Qantas Boeing 747 to turn into an engine testbed. Photo: AeroTEC

Given the age of the aircraft, Rolls-Royce is looking to upgrade its testbed. The 747-200 will be swapped for a -400. Qantas took delivery of a -400 registered as VH-OJU in 2000. As part of the jumbo jet’s retirement, this aircraft left the Qantas fleet in late 2018. In December 2019, it was flown to America to join the Rolls-Royce fleet under the registration N747RR.

Have you ever seen the Rolls-Royce flying testbed? Let us know in the comments!