Virgin Atlantic to provide transatlantic service powered by sustainable fuel
Regulator the Civil Aviation Authority has approved the Boeing 787 flight from Heathrow to New York on November 28.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The world’s journey to decarbonising flights starts here with today’s announcement, helped by Government funding, so people can travel how they want in a way fit for the future.
“By turning waste materials into the fuel of the future that will power our aviation sector, it is UK innovation leading the way with the world’s first transatlantic 100% SAF-powered flight.”
SAF is produced from sources such as agricultural waste and used cooking oil.
It cuts carbon emissions by up to 70% compared with traditional jet fuel but is several times more expensive to produce.
SAF can be used in jet engines to a maximum blend of 50% with kerosene without the need for any modifications.
The CAA analysed various aspects of Virgin Atlantic’s planned flight before granting the operating permit, including undertaking ground testing with an engine running on 100% SAF.
Rob Bishton, CAA chief executive, said: “Innovation and sustainability are vital areas of work but they must go hand in hand with safety. This is a reminder that together we can drive change, reduce emissions and make the skies greener for generations.”
Matt Finch, UK policy manager at clean transport campaign group Transport & Environment, said: “While any step towards greener flying is important, it’s important to remember that there are different types of SAF, and some of them are simply unsustainable.
“In particular, used cooking oil should be used to decarbonise road transport. Using it in planes could increase overall emissions.
“We need to ensure sustainable aviation fuel we are using is coming from the right sources.
“We also need to ensure that the industry is focused on the genuine solutions of the future, like hydrogen fuels and planes.”
Dale Vince, boss of the world’s first electric airline EcoJet, questioned where plant-based SAF will come from in the quantities required for the whole industry to make the switch.
He said: “To power all of our domestic flying this way, we’d need to use all Britain’s farmland.
“Neither Britain nor the world has enough land to grow jet fuel in the quantities we need – we’d need another planet for that, maybe two. We have realistic options though – like hydrogen/electric for short haul, which could include all European flights.”
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