ATR and Sweden-based Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA) are seeking to accelerate the certification of 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel on ATR airliners in cooperation with Finnish fuel company Neste. The partners are planning to operate a test flight with a BRA ATR turboprop burning 100 percent SAF in one engine and 50 percent SAF in the other early next year.
The cooperation is part of BRA’s ambition to halve the use of fossil fuels by 2025 and be completely fossil-free by 2030, and “become the world’s first net-zero airline 10 years ahead of any other airline,” BRA chairman Per Braathen noted during a ceremony announcing the new venture on Thursday. “It is about saving the planet. Even as a small airline we can make a difference,” he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic hugely impacted the airline’s business as the Swedish government requested it halted operations for several months and all aircraft were on the ground for over a year. The crisis should not be used to slow down the decarbonization efforts, he stressed. “It is absolutely vital that aviation goes even further to decarbonize. It is what we want, and what our passengers and the general public expect,” Braathen said. “SAF is not the end [in the airline’s and industry’s decarbonization efforts] but for now it is the solution to become net zero.”
Braathen acknowledged that SAF comes at a premium price, currently costing about three times as much as standard fossil kerosene. However, he asserted that both he as well as his customer base are willing to pay the higher price.
The new cooperation between ATR, BRA, and Neste follows the Perfect Flight venture in 2019 in which every aspect of a BRA ATR72-600 flight with 72 passengers was optimized, including the usage of a blend of 50 percent conventional jet fuel and 50 percent SAF—the maximum allowed quantity under current regulations. This led to a saving of 46 percent of CO2 emissions, compared to a BRA standard flight.
An ATR turboprop flying with 100 percent SAF in one engine and 50 percent in the other is expected to deliver an emissions reduction of 64 percent. An ATR flying one of BRA’s typical routes and burning 100 percent SAF in both engines would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 82 percent, the partners noted.
Reaching the “80 percent mark” and a higher SAF percentage certification are crucial, ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli said. “I have to find a solution, not for 2050 but for 2030, for now,” he emphasized. He described BRA as the “ideal partner with whom to embark on this project. This is an airline that is clearly committed to sustainable aviation and is dedicated to pushing the limits of what is achievable.”
Braathen declined to answer AIN’s question when and where the test flight is due to take place, insisting “this is confidential at this point in time.” The airline is based at Bromma Stockholm City Airport.