First net zero transatlantic flight will take off from the UK next year

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 will undertake first net zero flight Credit: Bill Abbott flickr

First net zero transatlantic flight will take off from the UK next year, with Virgin Atlantic receiving UK government funding to fly across the ‘pond’ using solely sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

In 2023, one of Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Boeing 787s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will take off from London Heathrow and make the journey to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport – a journey made by thousands of people for business, family and leisure every week. But this will be no ordinary journey.

When fully replacing kerosene, SAF can slash lifecycle carbon emissions by over 70 per cent compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.

This flight is expected to be fuelled by SAF made primarily from waste oils and fats, such as used cooking oil. The use of 100 per cent SAF on the flight, combined with carbon removal through biochar credits – a material which traps and stores carbon taken from the atmosphere – will make the flight net zero.

The government claims that not only will SAF be key in decarbonising aviation, but it could create a UK industry with an annual turnover of £2.4 billion by 2040 and will supports up to 5,200 UK jobs by 2035.

SAF is more expensive to produce and in the long run there may not be sufficient waste material to fuel all flights out of the UK but the government will introduce a SAF mandate requiring at least 10 per cent of jet fuel to be made from sustainable sources by 2030.

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