November 28, 2023
Over 100 years since John Alcock and Arthur Brown flew the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1919, Virgin Atlantic is proving the viability of sustainable aviation fuel for decarbonising long-haul air travel. Taking off from London Heathrow, one of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787s will travel across the pond to JFK International Airport, New York, a trip traditionally producing significant carbon emissions, which will be reduced considerably thanks to sustainable aviation fuel. Onboard the historic flight is UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper, Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss and Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. Commenting on the monumental achievement, Harper said: “Today’s historic flight, powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel, shows how we can both decarbonise transport and enable passengers to keep flying when and where they want. “This government has backed today’s flight to take-off, and we will continue to support the UK’s emerging SAF industry as it creates jobs, grows the economy and gets us to Jet Zero.” How will sustainable air travel decarbonise air travel? In December 2022, Virgin Atlantic and their consortium were awarded up to £1m of UK Government funding as part of a challenge from the Department for Transport to achieve the first transatlantic flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel. The sustainable aviation fuel powering Virgin Atlantic’s flight is developed from waste fats that cannot enter the food chain. Reusing waste products can have profound effects in decarbonising air travel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% compared to standard jet fuel over its life cycle. Sustainable fuels will become an increasingly essential part of the standard jet fuel mix in the coming years due to an upcoming mandate that requires 10% of jet fuel to come from sustainable sources in 2030. Speaking on the achievement, 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. Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo and pushing the aviation industry to never settle and do better since 1984. “Fast forward nearly 40 years, that pioneering spirit continues to be Virgin Atlantic’s beating heart as it pushes the boundaries from carbon fibre aircraft and fleet upgrades to sustainable fuels. “I couldn’t be prouder to be onboard Flight100 today alongside the teams at Virgin Atlantic and our partners, which have been working together to set the flight path for the decarbonisation of long-haul aviation.” UK’s sky-high Net Zero ambitions<\b> The move is part of a wider government initiative to create cleaner skies. Earlier this month, the government announced the second round of the Advanced Fuels Fund, which saw nine projects receive £53m to scale up the sustainable aviation fuel industry. The endeavour will be critical to reaching 2050 climate targets, with Virgin Atlantic’s transatlantic flight providing essential data to accelerate the fuel’s approval and understand its efficiency.