Virgin Atlantic has been granted permission to operate the first transatlantic flight powered by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The airline’s boss has labelled this a “historic” flight that has taken more than a year to put in place.
SAF is produced from sustainable sources such as agricultural waste and used cooking oil.
We've issued Virgin Atlantic with a permit to fly a historic transatlantic 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel flight.
The work is part of our role in safely enabling the industry to embrace more sustainable practices and explore new technologies.
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— UK Civil Aviation Authority (@UK_CAA) November 6, 2023
It cuts carbon emissions by up to 70 per cent compared with traditional jet fuel, but it is currently several times more expensive to produce. SAF can currently 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 per cent SAF.
CAA chief executive Rob Bishton said: “As the UK’s aviation regulator, it’s important that we safely enable the industry to embrace more sustainable practices and push the boundaries of what’s possible to create a greener aviation industry.
“This permit not only allows Virgin Atlantic and others to showcase their commitment to sustainability, but also serves as an example of how the industry is always exploring new technologies. 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 to come.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The world’s journey to decarbonising flight starts here in the UK, with today’s announcement helped by Government funding so people can continue to travel how they want, in a way that’s fit for the future.
“By turning waste materials into the fuel of the future that will power our aviation sector, it’s UK innovation that is leading the way with the world’s first transatlantic 100 per cent SAF-powered flight.”
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said: “The Civil Aviation Authority’s permit to fly Flight100 marks a key milestone and a huge achievement for all the teams working towards this historic flight.
“Getting to this point has been more than a year in the making and taken radical collaboration across our consortium partners and Government. We’re committed to using 10 per cent SAF by 2030, but to get there we need the government to support the creation of a UK SAF industry. We know that if we can make it, we can fly it.”