Virgin Atlantic’s ground-breaking SAF flight

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Airlines

Yesterday, it was announced that a world first for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will be taking place on 28th November 2023. After winning a permit from Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, Virgin Atlantic is planning a 100 per cent SAF flight from London to New York at the end of the month to “to test and showcase the feasibility of flying on 100 per cent SAF.”

With SAF playing a key role in the industry’s decarbonisation strategy, the “historic” flight speaks to its feasibility as an alternative to traditional fossil fuels. Currently, SAF can be used in jet engines to a maximum blend of 50 per cent with traditional kerosene without the need for any modifications. When fully replacing traditional kerosene, SAF could reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by over 70 per cent.

The flight will be the product of collaboration between Boeing, Rolls-Royce, BP, the Department for Transport, and others pushing the fuel as a viable alternative.

Rob Bishton, Chief Executive, UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

“As the UK’s aviation regulator, it’s important that we safely enable the industry to embrace more sustainable practices and push the boundaries of what’s possible to create a greener aviation industry. This permit not only allows Virgin Atlantic and others to showcase their commitment to sustainability, but also serves as an example of how the industry is always exploring new technologies. Innovation and sustainability are vital areas of work, but they must go hand in hand with safety. This is a reminder that together we can drive change, reduce emissions, and make the skies greener for generations to come.”

According to Reuters, Virgin now needs to gain permission from regulators in the US, Ireland, and Canada for the flight.

Yesterday, it was also announced that the first Emirates flights operating with SAF provided by Shell Aviation took off from Dubai International Airport (DXB). Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said:

“We’re pushing ahead with proactive measures to enable more sustainable flying now and in the future, and powering flights from our Dubai hub is just one of the steps we’ve taken to reduce emissions and concretely help our customers minimise their own carbon footprint.”

As the potential of SAF for reducing emissions is demonstrated, it is imperative the industry tackles supply-related challenges to unlock its full potential.


For more like this see: