Virgin Atlantic has conducted the first transatlantic flight utilizing 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) aboard a Boeing 787 with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, departing from London's Heathrow and landing at New York's JFK airport.
This flight, supported by government funding, aims to showcase the feasibility of a greener approach to aviation. Despite challenges such as limited fuel supply and the need for additional technology to meet emission targets, industry leaders view SAF as a crucial tool for reducing the carbon footprint of long-haul flights.
The SAF used in this flight is a dual blend, with 88% derived from waste fats and the remaining 12% from the byproducts of corn production in the United States. While SAF still emits carbon, the industry contends that the "lifecycle emissions" of these fuels can be up to 70% lower.
Despite the higher cost of SAF compared to traditional jet fuel, industry leaders believe it is a vital step toward achieving "net zero" emissions by 2050. The UK government aims to require 10% of aviation fuel to be SAF by 2030, with plans to construct dedicated SAF plants.
While the aviation industry acknowledges the importance of SAF, experts caution that it is not a complete solution. Dr. Guy Gratton of Cranfield University sees SAF as a stepping stone toward future technologies like e-fuels and hydrogen.
The successful flight, dubbed Flight100, is the result of a year-long collaboration involving Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Imperial College London, University of Sheffield, ICF, and Rocky Mountain Institute. The research conducted during the flight will contribute to understanding SAF's impact on non-carbon emissions, contrails, and particulates.