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IconDecember 26th, 2022
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China’s Guizhou Airlines Is China’s First Saf-Powered Commercial Flight

China’s aviation industry could soon see the regular use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) for commercial flights as Colorful Guizhou Airlines successfully completed a domestic flight. The use of blended fuels was part of the low-cost regional carrier’s relatively new partnership with Airbus, which preferred SAF to traditional jet fuel blends like JP-5 and Jet A-1.

Domestic flights are more sustainable than ever

There’s a daily scheduled domestic flight from an evening departure from Ningbo Lishe International Airport to Guiyang; it makes a stopover in Zunyi and arrives at Longdongbao Airport. The flight typically has an Airbus A320 Neo aircraft. On November 23rd, 2020, GY 7164 was a Total Stranger. Airbus 320neo B-30DY was running on SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) as well as regular jet fuel as it flew its two passengers to Xi’an. The Airbus A320neo cross-operated a sustainable international flight. The 10% blended SAF used on GY 7164 was produced locally from used cooking oil by SINOPEC Zhenhai Refining & Chemical Corporation, a state-owned petrochemical manufacturer. The company was the first RSB-certified SAF production unit in Asia and is currently the only manufacturing plant that produces and delivers SAF within China. Airbus also used the company’s SAF for delivery flights from their Tianjin facility.

A first in China

On November 23rd, China’s first commercial jet to use SAF for fuel flew domestically. In a nation that typically avoids hydrocarbon fuels, this was a trial run of what’s possible with these alternative fuels. However, as there are no refineries or production facilities in China capable of producing SAF at the moment, it will be years before we see flight GY 7164 in real life total-current-cost economics. One of the most important announcements from Airbus at their recent press conference with China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition was the purchase of next generation A350 jets for the budget carrier.

Airbus CEO Xu Gang commented about GY 7164’s milestone:

Airbus China is excited to announce its plans to launch the first commercial flight using SAF fuel in mainland China. In October, the Airbus Tianjin Delivery Center began serving as a delivery hub for its planes and started delivering planes from Tianzhou One. Now, the company has partnered with Colorful Guizhou Airlines to accomplish this first commercial flight on mainland China.

China’s commitment to sustainability is interesting

In addition to encouraging the joint use of a variant of SAF for commercial flight operations, the agreement between China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Airbus sought to support the sustainable development of the Chinese aviation industry. This supports the country’s 14th edition of Five-Year Plan: Green Development in Civil Aviation. From the Civil Aviation Administration, the new air plan stresses the need for airlines to implement a low-carbon development strategy, and their continuous promotion of innovations concerning applications of SAF. Using 20,000 tons or less is also expected within a span of 10 years. Xiamen Airlines is scheduled to conduct its SAF-powered commercial flights soon, Zhejiang Loong Airlines will likely start using SAF soon, and Colorful Guizhou Airlines may also use it in the near future. Airbus is also showing its unrivaled support by offering Chinese carriers the option to have their delivery flights from Tianjin powered by blended fuel. Overall, it seems like China’s aviation industry is finally starting to achieve the milestones laid out in the plan.  

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