The world’s first net zero transatlantic flight will take off from the UK next year, with Virgin Atlantic set to fly one of its Boeing 787 aircraft from London to New York using solely sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The airline has received UK government funding for the flight to show how SAF could replace conventional jet fuel. It will work with a consortium that includes Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Imperial College London, University of Sheffield, RMI, and ICF. When fully replacing kerosene, SAF can slash lifecycle carbon emissions by more than 70%, compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.
Virgin Atlantic’s flight is expected to be fuelled by SAF made primarily from waste oils and fats, such as used cooking oil. The use of 100% SAF on the flight, combined with carbon removal through biochar credits – a material that traps and stores carbon taken from the atmosphere – will make the flight net zero.
Not only will SAF play a key role in decarbonising aviation, it could also create a UK industry with an annual turnover of £2.4 billion by 2040 – and which supports up to 5,200 jobs in the UK by 2035.