Virgin Atlantic to fuel transatlantic flight with 100% SAF

By Erin Voegele | December 19, 2022

The U.K. Department of Transport on Dec. 16 announced that Virgin Atlantic will operate a historic net-zero flight from London to New York next year using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The flight will be supported by funds awarded by the U.K. government under a competition launched in May 2022. The competition, held by the Department of Transport in partnership with Innovate U.K., offered up £1 million of funding to support a transatlantic flight fueled with 100 percent SAF.

In 2023, one of Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Boeing 787s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will take off from London Heathrow and make the journey to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. The flight will be fueled completely by SAF. The use of 100 percent SAF on the flight, combined with carbon removal through biochar credits, will make the flight net-zero.

“As an airline founded on and committed to innovation, we’re proud to lead a cross-industry consortium of partners to make aviation history by operating the first ever 100 percent SAF flight across the Atlantic,” said Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic. “Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight in 1984 was to New York and today it continues to be one of our most popular routes. It will be an honor to pave the way for this important business and leisure route to become even more sustainable.

“This challenge recognizes the critical role that SAF has to play in decarbonizing aviation and the urgent collective action needed to scale production and use of SAF globally,” Weiss continued. “The research and results will be a huge step in fast-tracking SAF use across the aviation industry and supporting the investment, collaboration and urgency needed to produce SAF at scale. Our collective ambition of net zero by 2050 depends on it.”

“Congratulations to Virgin for winning the net zero transatlantic flight fund competition,” said Rachael Everard, head of sustainability at Rolls-Royce. “This represents an incredible milestone for the entire aviation industry in its journey towards net zero carbon emissions. We are incredibly proud that our Trent 1000 engines will power the first ever flight using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) across the Atlantic. SAF will play such an important role in decarbonizing long-haul flight in particular and is a key element of our sustainability strategy. The Trent 1000 can already be flown with a 50 percent blend of SAF on commercial flights and by the end of 2023 we will have proven that our whole family of Trent engines and business aviation engines are compatible with 100 percent SAF.”

“Boeing is proud to support the Department for Transport and Virgin Atlantic in this endeavor,” said Sheila Remes, vice president of environmental sustainability at Boeing. “Our longstanding sustainability partnership with Virgin dates back to the historic 2008 commercial SAF test flight on a Boeing 747. Together, as we add another SAF ‘first’ to our partnership and to the benefit of the industry, we know we are one step closer to a sustainable future of flight that will have zero climate impact.”




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