First transatlantic flight using sustainable aviation fuel

Virgin Atlantic airline has flown what is said to be the world’s first transatlantic flight powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

So-called Flight 100 was completed by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

The milestone flight is a result of collaboration between Virgin Atlantic, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Imperial College London, University of Sheffield and the Rocky Mountain Institute. A further partner was the UK Department for Transport.

The 787 aircraft flew from London’s Heathrow airport to John F. Kennedy airport in New York City.

It is said that SAF will have a ‘significant role’ to play in the decarbonisation of long-haul aviation, while helping to achieve Net Zero 2050 air travel targets.

Made from waste products, the fuel delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70%, while performing as traditional jet fuel.

The SAF used on Flight 100 was a ‘unique’ dual blend; 88% HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) supplied by AirBP and 12% SAK (synthetic aromatic kerosene) supplied by Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corporation.

HEFA is made from waste fats, while the SAK is made from plant sugars, with the remainder of plant proteins, oil and fibres continuing into the food chain. SAK is needed in 100% SAF blends to give the fuel the required aromatics for engine function.

Flight 100 will assess how its use affects the flight’s non-carbon emissions with the support of consortium partners.

Current fuel standards allow for 50% SAF blends for use with commercial jet engines. It is hoped that industry and government will approve the use of 100% SAF to support scaling up of production.

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