March 2, 2024

Historic transatlantic SAF-powered flight

Virgin Atlantic’s historic flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) has flown from London Heathrow to New York JFK with scientists, politicians and media onboard.

‘Flight 100’ aims to demonstrate that SAF can be used as a safe replacement for fossil fuel and to raise awareness of the need to ramp up SAF production.

Shai Weiss, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “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 Government, are in place. Flight100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it.”

While other sustainable aviation solutions, such as electric and hydrogen, are still decades away, SAF can be used now but still only represents less than 0.1% of global jet fuel volumes.

Current fuel standards allow for just a 50% SAF blend in commercial jet engines.

The fuel, made from waste products, delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70%, whilst performing like the traditional jet fuel it replaces.

The airline industry is working to reach the government’s ambitious target to increase the use of SAF to at least 10% by 2030.

There are currently no dedicated commercial SAF plants in the UK but the government aims to have five under construction by 2025, supported by grant funding.

As well as proving the capabilities of SAF, Flight100 will assess how its use affects the flight’s non-carbon emissions with the support of consortium partners, including Imperial College London and the University of Sheffield.

The research will improve scientific understanding of the effects of SAF on contrails and particulates, and help to 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 through RMI’s Climate Impact Task Force, which is part-funded by Virgin Unite.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic, said: “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.”