The world’s first net zero emissions transatlantic flight could be delivered by the UK government and industry as early as next year, ushering in a new era of guilt-free flying in the coming decades. The pioneering flight, on an aircraft powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), is expected to take off in 2023.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the ambitious challenge to industry during his visit to the US. Meeting with airline executives, he invited the international sector to work closely with the UK government to deliver the demonstrator flight in 2023, paving the way for flights on the transatlantic route, and many more, to be powered solely by low-carbon fuel.
This trailblazing net zero emissions flight, a world first, will demonstrate the vital role that sustainable aviation fuel can play in decarbonising aviation in line with our ambitious net zero targets.Grant Shapps UK Transport Secretary
“That’s not just great news for the environment, it’s great news for passengers who will be able to visit the Big Apple without increasing damaging greenhouse gas emissions. It’s crucial that we place sustainability at the heart of the aviation industry’s recovery from Covid-19 and I look forward to working with them on this challenge, which will lower the impact flying across the Atlantic has on the planet”, said Shapps.
The announcement underlines the government’s commitment to drive forward the SAF industry, which has the potential to deliver significant carbon savings, improve domestic fuel security, support thousands of green jobs and put flying on a more sustainable path.
UK airlines strongly support the development of a UK SAF industry, which will play a vital role in helping our sector deliver net zero emissions by 2050, as we are committed to doing.Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK
The new initiative has come out of the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government that aims to deliver new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions while supporting the UK economy. Industry estimates suggest that a UK SAF industry could support up to 5,200 jobs directly, as well as a further 13,600 through global exports – helping to level up the UK and boost the economy. The industry estimates its annual turnover could reach £2.3 billion by 2040.
The Department for Transport, in partnership with Innovate UK, has launched a competition to support industry to achieve the goal of the first net zero transatlantic flight on a commercial aircraft using 100% SAF within one year. Up to £1 million in funding will be made available from 2022 to 2023 to support the testing, research and personnel costs of the initiative.