Swiss airframer Pilatus Aircraft has taken an equity stake in solar fuels manufacturer Synhelion as it seeks to support the production and global supply of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Stans, Switzerland-based Pilatus said on 4 June that it will also use the solar fuel in its own operations, and will offer the fuel to customers “in the medium term”.

“Pilatus has been committed to sustainability and energy efficiency for many years – in our production processes and new buildings, for example,” says Hansueli Loosli, Pilatus’ chairman of the board.

“We are firmly convinced that sustainable aviation fuel will be a lasting feature of aviation operations in the future, and this is our way of making a further essential contribution.”

PC-12 NGX-c-Pilatus

Source: Pilatus

Pilatus will offer the solar fuel to its customers in the medium term

Pilatus aircraft are already certified to use SAF blends, the company adds.

Synhelion was founded in 2016 as a spin-off from the Federal Technical University in Zurich. It produces “sustainable solar fuels from solar energy” that can replace fossil-based fuels. 

It says the fuels are “fully compatible with existing global fuel infrastructure” and can be used in aircraft, ships, trucks and cars. The fuel is produced through application of concentrated sunlight to manufacture synthetic gas, which is then industrially synthesised into kerosene.

The company is building the world’s first industrial solar fuel production plant in Germany, and a commercial plant is planned in Spain from next year.

“We’re extremely proud to have Pilatus as a partner and shareholder,” Philipp Furler, co-chief executive of Synhelion, adds. “Over the next few years, we will focus fully on scaling our fuels worldwide. Together, we aim to roll out sustainable solar fuels to the entire Pilatus customer fleet within the next 10 years.”

In 2022, Swiss International Air Lines became the first airline customer of Synhelion’s “sun-to-liquid” solar fuel. It also took a financial stake in the company.