Representative Image Heiner/Pixabay

Aerospace firm Leonardo and Abu Dhabi Aviation (ADA) announced on Thursday that an AW139 commercial helicopter completed two flights while powered by aviation fuel mixed with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), becoming the first fuel-blended flight in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Middle East.

The helicopter carried UAE dignitaries and industry representatives during the historic flights that reportedly highlighted Leonardo and ADA's commitment and capabilities in reducing aviation's negative impact on global carbon emissions.

Nader Ahmed Al Hammadi, chairman of ADA, said the aviation company is looking forward to more such strategic partnerships to hasten the removal of carbon from the aviation sector, improve fuel efficiency and help the country work on its climate targets and preserve the environment.

"We reaffirm ADA's commitment to supporting the UAE's efforts in the aviation sector to ensure sustainable growth and adopting it in the future," he said, as per WAM.

Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo's managing director, shared similar sentiments, saying, "These SAF flights in the UAE performed by an ADA's AW139 have shown what's possible to concretely support the rapid evolution of sustainability requirements in aviation."

"This technology can deliver real benefits in the region and widely across geographies and for all missions and can be made available in a reasonable time. We're committed to joining forces with authorities, energy industry leaders and rotorcraft service providers to incentivize the use of SAF to sustain carbon footprint reduction," he continued."

Leonardo and ADA have been working together for 15 years, and the commercial helicopter operator has already acquired 33 aircraft, many of which are AW139s. AW139 is one of the best-selling helicopters, having sold more than 1,300 units to over 80 countries.

Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority, praised the UAE's civil aviation sector for taking a significant step such as using SAF.

He then recalled the recently concluded 3rd ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels, which was hosted by the UAE. He remarked that during this event, the world "world witnessed the launch of the (Dubai Framework) for Sustainable Aviation Fuel, which represents the beginning of the path towards a more sustainable future in aviation, aiming to achieve our ambitious goal of reaching zero emissions by 2050."

The conference took place at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City from Nov. 20 to 24. It was sponsored by Etihad, Airbus, FlyDubai, Air Arabia, Shell Aviation, SAF One and IATA, among others.