In an unprecedented leap for the aviation industry, aviation giant, Virgin Atlantic has successfully completed the world’s first transatlantic flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on Flight100. Departing from London Heathrow (LHR) to New York JFK, this historic journey signifies a major breakthrough in the quest for sustainable air travel.
Flight 100 featured a Boeing 787 equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. The aircraft type, with its engine option, has proven that SAF can effectively replace traditional fossil-derived jet fuels. SAF, produced primarily from waste products, is not only a safer alternative but also significantly reduces CO2 lifecycle emissions by up to 70%. This marks a crucial step towards the industry’s ambition for Net Zero 2050.
The success of Flight100 is attributed to a year of radical collaboration. Virgin Atlantic led this initiative, bringing together industry giants like Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and prestigious academic institutions, including Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Imperial College London and University of Sheffield, and government authorities in the UK and US. This partnership highlights the power of collective efforts in overcoming environmental challenges.
Despite SAF’s advantages, it currently accounts for less than 0.1% of global jet fuel volumes, constrained by production scales and existing fuel standards. Flight100 not only demonstrates SAF’s capabilities but also emphasizes the need for policy changes and increased investment to enhance SAF production.
In addition to showcasing SAF’s effectiveness, Flight100 serves as a platform for studying its impact on non-carbon emissions. Research conducted by consortium partners aims to enhance our understanding of SAF’s influence on contrails and particulates, contributing to more environmentally considerate flight planning.
The advancement of the SAF industry is expected to yield considerable economic and social benefits. The development of a robust UK SAF industry, as envisioned by Virgin Atlantic and its partners, could potentially contribute significantly to the UK’s economy and create thousands of jobs.
Virgin Atlantic’s Flight100 is a major milestone for long-haul aviation. While SAF is continuously proving itself as a viable alternative to traditional jet fuels, major hurdles must be overcome for it to become an integrated and scalable part of the aviation industry.