TimeTestedNews |Virgin airliner crosses Atlantic powered only by sustainable aviation fuel

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One of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787s took off for a world-first flight from London Heathrow to JFK International Airport, New York today powered by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). 

The Transport Secretary (and MP for the Forest of Dean) Mark Harper, travelled on the flight alongside Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss and Virgin’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, making them the first commercial airline to fly across the pond without the use of any fossil-based jet fuel. 

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The historic trip is powered by SAF made from waste fats that cannot enter the food chain. Repurposing waste products into jet fuel to cut emissions provides the most immediate solution to help decarbonise our skies.  

  • Miles: 3543 
  • Aircraft: Boeing 787
  • Amount of SAF: 60 tonnes (for testing and the flight itself)

Virgin Atlantic and its consortium were awarded up to £1 million of UK government funding in December 2022, following a challenge from the Department for Transport to support the industry in achieving the first transatlantic flight on a commercial aircraft powered by 100 per cent SAF. The funding has played a vital role in supporting the testing of today’s fuel and the flight’s operational delivery to make this a reality. It will also provide an opportunity to generate important data that will accelerate SAF approval and boost our understanding of its efficiency. 

SAF has a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of around 70 per cent when compared against standard jet fuel over its life cycle.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “Today’s historic flight, powered by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel, shows how we can decarbonise transport and enable passengers to keep flying when and where they want.”

SAF will become an increasing part of the standard jet fuel mix, driven by our upcoming SAF mandate, with at least 10 per cent of jet fuel being from sustainable sources in 2030. This will mean that business or leisure travellers can fly knowing their carbon footprint will be lower than ever before. 

Sir Richard Branson, Founder, 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.”