L’Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom issued to Virgin Atlantic a permit to make the world’s first transatlantic flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Virgin Atlantic plans to cross the Atlantic from London Heathrow has New York JFK on November 28, 2023 to test and demonstrate the feasibility of flying with 100% SAF. The permit follows a program of technical reviews carried out by the regulator, which analyzed various aspects of the planned flight, including carrying out ground tests with Rolls Royce on a Trent 1000 engine operating at 100% SAF.
Led by Virgin Atlantic and part-funded by the Department for Transport, preparation for the flight involved a consortium of companies made up of Boeing, Rolls Royce, BP and others, to demonstrate SAF as an alternative to regular jet fuel. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has worked closely with the consortium throughout its application and will continue to work alongside industry to learn more about the performance and impact of sustainable aviation fuels.
Virgin Atlantic has received up to £1 million in funding from the UK Government in December 2022, following a challenge by the Department for Transport to help the industry achieve the first transatlantic flight on an aircraft powered 100% by SAF. The permit constitutes one of the approvals required for the flight and paves the way for Virgin Atlantic to submit applications to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)at theIrish Aviation Authority and to Transport Canada in order to authorize the flight to cross American, Irish and Canadian airspace.
SAF is a fuel derived from renewable sources non-oil which can be used as a replacement or mixed with kerosene. SAF can currently be used in jet engines in a maximum blend of 50% with traditional kerosene without any modification. There are a number of processes for producing SAF, including from algae, fuels synthesized from hydrogen waste, or from direct carbon dioxide capture.
By completely replacing the kerosenethe SAF could reduce the carbon emissions life cycle by more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. The Government’s ‘Jet Zero’ strategy, published in July 2022 as a roadmap to achieving net zero aviation, includes SAF as a key consideration.