Thursday, June 13, 2024

Virgin Atlantic To Launch Historic Transatlantic Flight Using SAF Next Year!

By Staff Correspondent

Virgin Atlantic is slated to launch the world’s first transatlantic flight using Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). The aircraft will be a Boeing 787. The historic test flight is expected to take off next year and is already being touted as a significant aviation milestone that will bolster investments in the new technology.

The United Kingdom government proclaimed that using SAF for the test flight between Heathrow airport in London and John F Kennedy airport in New York would make it the “first transatlantic flight with net zero emissions.” SAF is made from forestry or agricultural waste; they are not derived from fossil fuels. The use of SAF can strike down the use of carbon emissions by 70%.

According to the UK government, for virgin Atlantic to achieve “net-zero” status, the remaining 30% of carbon emissions would need to be offset by investment in carbon removal technologies. Only a maximum of 50% SAF blend with kerosene is permitted by safety regulators for use in commercial jet engines. However, UK’s transport minister, Baroness Vere, highlighted that the flight would demonstrate that it was safe to power a passenger plane with complete SAF.

The aviation industry relies almost entirely on SAF to cut its carbon emission offset to net zero by 2050; this is because alternative sources of clean technologies like electro or hydrogen-powered aircraft still need to be proven at a mass scale.

SAF is more expensive than traditional kerosene and is, by comparison, produced on a minuscule scale. Going by the aviation industry estimates, approximately 450 billion litres of SAF will be annually needed by 205. In 2021 the annual SAF production was a mere 100 million litres. A massive scaling up is required.

The UK government invested €1 million in the Virgin Atlantic flight. The UK has further pledged €165 million to accelerate the construction of SAF plants. The UK also has a mandate stipulating that 10% of jet fuel comes from sustainable sources by 2030 to bolster demand.

Airlines and airports have asked the UK government to do more. Most notable among the asks are request to set up “contracts from difference” to agree to a determined price for the fuel underwritten by the government; this parallels what the British government has done for offshore wind and nuclear projects.

Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Executive, Shai Weiss, opined that the UK government support was a welcome step; however, only a “drop in the ocean” compared to the money invested in the United States to support green energy development. “We need to create an environment which promotes and encourages SAF in the UK,” Weiss said.

Vere said that the decision had been made on additional support however did not rule out CFDs and insisted that the UK was “at the forefront” of SAF production with a target of building five new plants by 2025. “This sort of industry will replace many of the old industries that have declined, Vere explained.

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