Virgin Atlantic’s Virgin 100% SAF flight – an historic achievement

“We did it!” say Virgin Atlantic following the first 100% SAF flight. Image: Virgin Atlantic

Though not strictly an air cargo achievement, this aviation milestone is one to celebrate. A week after Emirates announced its first 100% SAF demonstration A380 flight (which actually turned out to be 1 of 4 engines running on SAF), Virgin Atlantic has now actually flown the world’s first 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel commercial flight. The route: London Heathrow (LHR) to New York’s JFK Airport. The plane: a Boeing 787. The engines: Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. The SAF: a unique dual blend of 88% HEFA (Hydro-processed Esters and Fatty Acids made from waste fats) supplied by AirBP, and 12% SAK (Synthetic Aromatic Kerosene made from plant sugars) supplied by Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corporation. “SAK is needed in 100% SAF blends to give the fuel the required aromatics for engine function,” the release explains. The success is down to a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium of Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Imperial College London, University of Sheffield, ICF and Rocky Mountain Institute, all working together in partnership with the UK’s Department for Transport.

Shai Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Atlantic, said: “Flight100 proves that Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be used as a safe, drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel and it’s the only viable solution for decarbonizing long-haul aviation. It’s taken radical collaboration to get here and we’re proud to have reached this important milestone, but we need to push further. “There’s simply not enough SAF and it’s clear that in order to reach production at scale, we need to see significantly more investment. This will only happen when regulatory certainty and price support mechanisms, backed by Government, are in place. Flight100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it.” Today, SAF represents less than 0.1% of global jet fuel volumes, and fuel standards allow for just a 50% SAF blend in commercial jet engines. However, Flight100 demonstrates the possibilities if industry and governments seriously focus on building up SAF production.

Sheila Remes, Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, Boeing, stated: “In 2008 Virgin Atlantic and Boeing completed the first commercial SAF test flight on a 747 and today we will accomplish yet another significant milestone utilizing a 787 Dreamliner. This flight is a key step toward our commitment to deliver 100% SAF-compatible airplanes by 2030. As we work toward the civil aviation industry’s net-zero goal, today’s historic journey highlights what we can achieve together.”



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