Heathrow: Virgin Atlantic to test first 100% sustainable aviation fuel flight to New York

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The Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow to New York will trial the use of 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued Virgin Atlantic with a permit to fly a world-first transatlantic 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) flight.

The airline plans to fly across the Atlantic from London Heathrow to New York JFK on November 28 to test and showcase the feasibility of flying on 100% SAF.

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SAF is fuel derived from non-petroleum-based renewable sources and can replace, or blended with, kerosene. It can currently be used in jet engines to a maximum blend of 50% with traditional kerosene without the need for any modifications.

There are a number of processes to produce SAF, including algae, synthesised fuels from hydrogen waste, or from directly capturing carbon dioxide.

When fully replacing kerosene, SAF could reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by over 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.

The permit follows a programme of technical reviews by the regulator, including ground testing with Rolls Royce on a Trent 1000 engine running on 100% SAF. Led by Virgin Atlantic and partly funded by the Department for Transport, preparation for the flight has involved a consortium of companies including Boeing, Rolls-Royce and BP to demonstrate SAF as an alternative to regular jet fuel.

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Virgin Atlantic was awarded up to £1 million by the government in December, to support the industry in achieving the first transatlantic flight on an aircraft powered by 100% SAF.

Virgin will test the first 100% sustainable aviation fuel flight. (Photo by Virgin)Virgin will test the first 100% sustainable aviation fuel flight. (Photo by Virgin)
Virgin will test the first 100% sustainable aviation fuel flight. (Photo by Virgin) | Virgin

Virgin Atlantic

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic said: "The Civil Aviation Authority’s permit to fly Flight100 marks a key milestone and a huge achievement for all the teams working towards this historic flight. Getting to this point has been more than a year in the making and taken radical collaboration across our consortium partners and government.

"We’re committed to using 10% SAF by 2030, but to get there we need the government to support the creation of a UK SAF industry. We know that if we can make it, we can fly it.”

Civil Aviation Authority

Rob Bishton, chief executive at the 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.

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“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.”

Mark Harper

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The world’s journey to decarbonising flight starts here in the UK, with today’s announcement helped by Government funding so people can continue to travel how they want, in a way that’s fit for the future.

“By turning waste materials into the fuel of the future that will power our aviation sector, it’s UK innovation that is leading the way with the world’s first transatlantic 100% SAF powered flight.”

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