World's first 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel Flight lands in New York

Virgin Atlantic successfully completes world's first fully SAF flight

Virgin Atlantic has successfully completed the world's first 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK, marking a groundbreaking achievement in the aviation industry. The historic Flight100, operated on a Boeing 787 with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, demonstrates that SAF is a safe and viable drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel, representing a crucial step towards decarbonising long-haul aviation. 

The milestone was made possible through a year of radical collaboration by a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, including key partners such as Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Imperial College London, the University of Sheffield, ICF, and the Rocky Mountain Institute, in partnership with the Department for Transport. 

Virgin Atlantic's commitment to sustainable aviation is underscored by its continuous efforts to find more eco-friendly ways to fly. Flight100, operating on a unique dual blend of 88 per cent Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) supplied by AirBP and 12 per cent Synthetic Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) supplied by Virent (a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corporation), proves that SAF can deliver CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70 per cent.  

Shai Weiss, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Atlantic, emphasised the significance of the achievement, stating, "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." 

The SAF used in Flight100 is made from waste products, showcasing its potential to contribute significantly to the decarbonisation of long-haul flights and the pathway to achieving Net Zero 2050. 

While electric and hydrogen technologies remain distant prospects, SAF is ready for immediate use. Flight100 aims to address the challenge of scaling up SAF production, emphasising that the primary hurdles are policy and investment-related. The collaboration calls for swift action from both industry and government to establish a thriving UK SAF industry. 

In addition to validating the capabilities of SAF, Flight100 will assess its impact on non-carbon emissions. Consortium partners, including ICF, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Imperial College London, and the University of Sheffield, will contribute to scientific research on the effects of SAF on contrails and particulates, enhancing the understanding of SAF's environmental impact.  

The collaboration's commitment to sustainability extends beyond the flight, with data and research to be shared with the industry. Virgin Atlantic remains actively involved in contrail work through RMI’s Climate Impact Task Force, contributing to ongoing efforts to address aviation's environmental footprint.   

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic, expressed pride in the pioneering spirit of the airline, stating, "The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit."  

Transport Secretary Mark Harper affirmed the government's support for the emerging SAF industry, emphasising the potential for job creation, economic growth, and progress towards achieving Jet Zero. 

Boeing's Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, Sheila Remes, highlighted the journey towards net-zero emissions, stating, "Today’s historic journey highlights what we can achieve together." 

Simon Burr, Group Director of Engineering, Technology, and Safety at Rolls-Royce plc, commended the milestone, stating, "The flight represents a major milestone for the entire aviation industry in its journey towards net zero carbon emissions."  

The success of Flight100 reinforces the industry's commitment to sustainable aviation and sets the stage for continued advancements in eco-friendly air travel.


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