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Sustainability Landmark: Virgin Airlines takes off first SAF-based flight, Rishi Sunak calls it ‘very exciting’

Virgin Atlantic flew its landmark flight on November 28, 2023, based on 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Heathrow Airport in London to the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, which landed today on November 29. The flight is being called Flight100, marking a significant milestone towards Net Zero by 2050.

UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, in an Instagram post, said, “Our Government has made up to £1 million of funding available to support the project. SAF is primarily made of waste oils and fats. Not only SAF will be key to decarbonizing aviation. But it could create a UK industry with an annual turnover of almost £2.5 billion, which could support over 5000 UK jobs.”

 

Shai Weiss, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Atlantic, said, “Flight100 proves that Sustainable Aviation fuel can be used as a safe, drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel, and it’s the only viable solution to decarbonising long-haul aviation. It takes radical collaboration to get here, and we’re proud to have reached this important milestone, but we need to push further. 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 the Government, are in place. Flight100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it.”

What is SAF made of?

The sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) used to power Flight100 is a blend of 88 per cent Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) supplied by AirBP and 12 per cent Synthetic Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) sourced from Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corporation. HEFA comes from waste fats, while SAK is produced from plant sugars, using the by-product of plant proteins, oil, and fibres.

Why is SAF better?

SAF is a biofuel used to run aircraft. It has properties similar to regular jet fuel but with much fewer carbon emissions. Additionally, SAF can also lower the life cycle of GHC emissions or may have a “net-negative GHG footprint,” according to Energy.gov.

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Updated: 29 Nov 2023, 01:26 PM IST

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