The first commercial aircraft to fly across the Atlantic entirely on “sustainable” jet fuel departed from London Heathrow on Tuesday.
While scientists and environmental groups are highly skeptical about the Virgin Atlantic trip, which was partially supported by the UK government, the aviation industry and politicians have praised it as evidence of the ability to drastically reduce net carbon emissions from flying.
SAF is viewed by airlines as a vital means of reducing net emissions as it may be implemented in current aircraft. According to Virgin Atlantic, the trip to New York would demonstrate that SAF was a secure substitute for regular kerosene jet fuel. Nonetheless, the fuel’s current availability represents less than a thousandth of the total jet fuel volume utilized globally.
In the past, airlines have operated on a combination of up to 50% sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), whereas flight VS100 is utilizing fuel mostly derived from tallow and other waste products while operating under special dispensation without paying passengers.
The trip was hailed as “a major milestone towards making air travel more environmentally friendly and decarbonising our skies” by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it,” stated Sir Richard Branson, the founder and president of Virgin Atlantic, who was also there. According to Shai Weiss, the Virgin Atlantic chief executive, “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. Flight 100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it.
By 2025, five industrial facilities in the UK are expected to be built to generate SAF.