Virgin Atlantic has announced that the world’s first 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight across the Atlantic will take place on 28 November 2023. However, this take off is still pending further regulatory approvals and testing.
In partnership with Rolls-Royce, the airline has achieved a significant milestone in sustainable aviation by successfully testing SAF on the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine. This achievement paves the way for the world’s first 100% SAF-powered transatlantic flight, from London Heathrow to New York JFK on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation.Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic
The SAF blend, consisting of 88% Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and 12% synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK), has completed successful ground tests. With fuel suppliers Air bp and Virent providing the 60 tonnes of SAF required for the historic flight, this initiative showcases the potential of SAF as an 100% drop-in replacement for traditional fossil fuel. “SAF is currently the most viable option to help us meet the industry’s net zero ambition and in the short and medium term it will be the only option for long-haul flights” , said Andreea Moyes, Global Aviation Sustainability Director for Air bp.
Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to sustainability and its goal of achieving net zero by 2050 drives this ambitious project. With one of the most fuel and carbon-efficient fleets across the Atlantic, the airline has a 15-year track record of leadership in SAF utilization. The transatlantic flight aims to demonstrate that through industry collaboration, 100% SAF integration is achievable for long-haul flights using existing engine and fuel infrastructure. The airline is pushing for the industry to collectively achieve 10% SAF by 2030 and for the development of a SAF industry in the UK to help power it’s transatlantic flights. “We need UK government support to create a UK SAF industry to allow for every single flight out of the UK to operate with 100% SAF”, commented Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic. “If we make it, we can fly it”, he added.
With CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of over 70% compared to traditional jet fuel, SAF plays a vital role in decarbonizing aviation and achieving the industry’s pathway to net zero by 2050. The transatlantic flight, a result of cross-industry collaboration led by Virgin Atlantic, funded by the Department for Transport, and involving Rolls-Royce, Boeing, University of Sheffield, Imperial College London, and Rocky Mountain Institute, marks a significant milestone in the journey towards a sustainable aviation future.