Virgin Atlantic flies world’s first 100 pc Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight

Not enough SAF, need more investment to reach production scale: Shai Weiss
2023-11-29
/
/ New Delhi
Virgin Atlantic flies world’s first 100 pc Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight

Virgin Atlantic says that this historic flight’s fuel, made from waste products, delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70 pc, whilst performing like the traditional jet fuel it replaces

Paving way for NetZero 2050, British carrier Virgin Atlantic creates history when it operated the world's first transatlantic passenger flight powered by 100 pc Sustainable Aviation Fuel.
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Virgin Atlantic’s flight on 100 pc Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Flight100, took off from London Heathrow to New York JFK yesterday, in what marked the culmination of a year of radical collaboration. This is the first time that a large passenger jet of a commercial airline has made the transatlantic journey using 100 SAF.

In a press statement, Virgin Atlantic says that Flight100 “demonstrates the capability of SAF as a safe replacement for fossil derived jet fuel, compatible with today’s engines, airframes and fuel infrastructure.”

The airline says that this historic flight’s fuel, made from waste products, delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70 pc, whilst performing like the traditional jet fuel it replaces.

SAF has a significant role to play in the decarbonisation of long-haul aviation and the pathway to NetZero 2050. Today, SAF represents less than 0.1 pc of global jet fuel volumes and fuel standards allow for just a 50 pc SAF blend in commercial jet engines, adds the statement.

Shai Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Atlantic. 

“Flight100 proves that Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be used as a safe, drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel and it’s the only viable solution for decarbonising long haul aviation. It’s taken radical collaboration to get here and we’re proud to have reached this important milestone, but we need to push further. There’s simply not enough SAF and it’s clear that in order to reach production at scale, we need to see significantly more investment. This will only happen when regulatory certainty and price support mechanisms, backed by the Government, are in place. Flight100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it,” says Shai Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Atlantic.

As well as proving the capabilities of SAF, Flight100 will assess how its use affects the flight’s non-carbon emissions to improve scientific understanding on contrails and particulates. This will help implement contrail forecasts in the flight planning process. Data and research will be shared with industry and Virgin Atlantic will continue its involvement with contrail work, adds the airline.

Sir Richard Branson

“The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it. The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit. Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo and pushing the aviation industry to never settle and do better since 1984. Fast forward nearly 40 years, that pioneering spirit continues to be Virgin Atlantic’s beating heart as it pushes the boundaries from carbon fibre aircraft and fleet upgrades to sustainable fuels. I couldn’t be prouder to be onboard Flight100 today alongside the teams at Virgin Atlantic and our partners, which have been working together to set the flight path for the decarbonisation of long-haul aviation,” says Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Atlantic said.

The statement adds that SAF used on Flight100 blends 88 pc Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and 12 pc Synthetic Aromatic Kerosene (SAK). The HEFA is made from waste fats while the SAK is made from plant sugars, with the remainder of plant proteins, oil and fibres continuing into the food chain.

According to the airline, to achieve NetZero 2050, the innovation and investment needed across all available feedstocks and technologies must be harnessed to maximise SAF volumes as well as continuing the research and development needed to bring new zero emission aircraft to market.

“Today’s 100 pc SAF powered flight shows how we can decarbonise transport both now and in the future, cutting lifecycle emissions by 70 pc and inspiring the next generation of solutions. This Government has backed today’s flight to take-off and we will continue to support the UK’s emerging SAF industry as it create jobs, grows the economy and gets us to Jet Zero,”  UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper adds.

“In 2008 Virgin Atlantic and Boeing completed the first commercial SAF test flight on a 747 and today we will accomplish yet another significant milestone utilising a 787 Dreamliner. This flight is a key step toward our commitment to deliver 100% SAF-compatible airplanes by 2030. As we work toward the civil aviation industry’s net-zero goal, today’s historic journey highlights what we can achieve together,” adds Sheila Remes, Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, Boeing.

“We are incredibly proud that our Trent 1000 engines are powering the first ever widebody flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel across the Atlantic today. Rolls-Royce has recently completed compatibility testing of 100% SAF on all our in-production civil aero engine types and this is further proof that there are no engine technology barriers to the use of 100% SAF. The flight represents a major milestone for the entire aviation industry in its journey towards net zero carbon emissions,” adds Simon Burr, Group Director of Engineering, Technology & Safety, Rolls-Royce plc.

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