The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued Virgin Atlantic with a permit to fly a world-first transatlantic 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) flight.
Virgin Atlantic plans to fly across the Atlantic from London Heathrow to New York JFK on 28 November 2023 to test and showcase the feasibility of flying on 100 per cent SAF.
The permit follows a programme of technical reviews by the regulator, which analysed different aspects of the planned flight, including undertaking ground testing with Rolls Royce on a Trent 1000 engine running on 100 per cent SAF.
Led by Virgin Atlantic and partly funded by the UK Department for Transport, preparation for the flight has involved a consortium of companies comprised of Boeing, Rolls-Royce, BP and others, to demonstrate SAF as an alternative to regular jet fuel.
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 per cent 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.”
Virgin Atlantic was awarded up to £1m UK government funding in December 2022, following a challenge from the Department for Transport to support the industry in achieving the first transatlantic flight on an aircraft powered by 100 per cent SAF.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority worked closely with the consortium throughout their application and will continue to work alongside the industry to learn more about the performance and impact of sustainable aviation fuels.
Mark Harper, secretary of state for transport, 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 is UK innovation that is leading the way with the world’s first transatlantic 100 per cent SAF powered flight.”
Rob Bishton, chief executive of the CAA, added that “this is a reminder that together we can drive change, reduce emissions, and make the skies greener for generations to come”.
Sustainable aviation fuel is fuel derived from non-petroleum based renewable sources that is capable of being used as a replacement for, or blended with, kerosene.
It can currently 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 kerosene, SAF could reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by over 70 per cent compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.
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