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Bio-kerosene to fuel ADAC’s air rescue flights
ADAC Luftrettung is to test its air rescue helicopters on SAF-powered flights. If successful the fuel will be used across the fleet, with the goal of using 100 per cent biofuel; no fossil fuel blend.
As part of a three-year pilot project, ADAC Luftrettung's Christoph Rheinland H145 will fly to emergency missions on environmentally friendly bio-kerosene.

As part of a three year pilot project, Germany-based air rescue operator ADAC Luftrettung is set to fly its Christoph Rheinland H145 from Cologne/Bonn airport to emergency missions on environmentally friendly bio-kerosene from December. A second SAF research project is to be implemented in Aachen/Würselen in 2022 with its EC135 Christoph Europa 1.

A first SAF rescue helicopter flight took place earlier in June this year when ADAC refuelled the Arriel 2E engines on its Airbus H145 with biofuel at the air rescue station at Munich's Harlaching Clinic. The fuel was produced by TotalEnergies from used cooking oil at its refinery in Normandy.

ADAC Luftrettung has a fleet of more than 50 helicopters. “Sustainable aviation fuel is a key contributor to our strategy to achieve carbon neutrality for our operations,” says CEO Frédéric Bruder.” As such, the company must develop air rescue technologically so that the use of SAF is future-proof in the longer term and can be extended across the fleet.

The pilot project is a cooperation between ADAC Luftrettung, French engine manufacturer Safran Helicopter Engines, helicopter manufacturer Airbus Helicopters and the German Aerospace Center to investigate the long term effects of bio-kerosene on the Airbus H145 technology with Safran engines. It will cover all aspects of biofuel usage on the H145 with the aim of accelerating the technology selection, scaling and market introduction of SAF in Germany.

ADAC’s Bruder and Safran CEO Franck Saudo have signed a long-term agreement to increase the blending ratio of biofuel to up to 100 per cent in the coming years, and to promote the use of synthetic e-fuel, also known as Power-To-Liquid kerosene (PTL - liquid fuels produced using electrical energy from renewable sources). Biofuel is currently certified and approved for aviation use in a maximum blend of 50 per cent with conventional kerosene of the Jet-A1 type. The ADAC rescue helicopter was flown on a 40 per cent blend.

ADAC’s flying yellow angels are also working with engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada for a second three year research project using the EC135 helicopter Christoph Europa 1.

“SAFs have a crucial role to play in reducing the environmental footprint of aviation and lessening the industry's consumption of fossil fuels,” says P&WC VP marketing and sales, helicopter engines Nicolas Chabée. “Initiatives like ADAC Luftrettung's will help raise awareness about the benefits of SAF, and, importantly, demonstrate that there is growing demand to support an increase in the supply of SAF, which our industry urgently needs.”

This programme will allow ADAC to validate its own best practices for SAF usage in its day to day operations. With a commitment to operate SAF at blends of 30-40 per cent over the course of 36 months, the programme will set one of the most extensive operational SAF usage cases for the sector. Results will be monitored by the Aachen University of Applied Sciences. It is estimated that the air rescue fleet could achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions of around a third, which corresponds to a reduction of around 6,000 tons of CO2 with more than 50,000 rescue missions and more than 3.3 million flown kilometres per year.

“In air rescue with environmentally friendly kerosene, we want to be a pioneer in reducing CO2 and, as a non-profit organisation, make our contribution to achieving the climate protection goals in Germany and Europe,” says ADAC’s Bruder. “As bio-kerosene is an officially approved fuel, flight and patient safety thus remain at the usual highest level.”

The bio-kerosene used in Cologne is produced by Air bp from used cooking oil, without the use of natural vegetable oil. Because of its complex production, it is not yet available in large quantities and is many times more expensive than conventional aviation fuel.

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