The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued Virgin Atlantic a permit to fly a world-first transatlantic 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight. Virgin Atlantic plans to fly across the Atlantic from London Heathrow to New York JFK today to test and showcase the feasibility of flying on 100% SAF.
The permit, issued earlier in November, followed a program of technical reviews by the regulator, which analyzed different aspects of the planned flight, including undertaking ground testing with Rolls Royce on a Trent 1000 engine running on 100% SAF.
Fuel suppliers Air bp and Virent are supplying the 60 tonnes of SAF to be used, supporting consortium research, testing and the flight itself. The SAF is produced through the Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) pathway as well as synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK) SAF at an 88% and 12% blend ratio.
Led by Virgin Atlantic and partly funded by 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.
Virgin Atlantic was awarded up to £1 million 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% SAF.
In addition to the use of SAF, other efficiency measures are being put in place to highlight operational and in-flight efficiency along with research and development into non-CO2 aspects of the fuel which include particulate matter and contrails. A full end to end life-cycle-analysis of the flight will be undertaken, accounting for the reduction associated with the use of SAF and the fuel optimization activities being deployed for Flight 100. Any residual emissions are being mitigated with the use of carbon removals, specifically biochar credits—a material which traps and stores carbon taken from the atmosphere.