Could the world have pollution-free skies? Virgin Atlantic thinks so
In a landmark event in aviation history, Virgin Atlantic operated the first commercial transatlantic flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The event happened on Tuesday, November 28, a day that will go down in Virgin Atlantic’s history. According to GovUK, the airline is taking a significant stride in reducing carbon emissions.It was one of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787s that took off from London Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, landing at JFK International Airport in New York. Meanwhile, UK’s Transport Secretary Mark Harper was on board Flight100, along with Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss and the company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. Moreover, the flight showcased and feasibility of long-haul flights using 100 percent SAF, thus setting a precedent for a more sustainable aviation industry.
As for the SAF, the fuel is reportedly derived from non-edible waste fats and is one part of the main endeavor to attain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. According to the report, SAF offers a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of around 70 percent as compared with the original jet fuel. Meanwhile, the UK Government has recognized the importance of the initiative. Back in December 2022, it granted up to £1 million ($1,268,0oo) in funding to support the project.
The future of sustainable jet fuel SAFTuesday’s successful Virgin Atlantic flight was the result of the collaborative efforts of the UK Government and the aviation sector. Harper, who enjoyed the journey, expressed his views on the historic flight saying:
Today’s historic flight, powered by 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel, shows how we can both decarbonize transport and enable passengers to keep flying when and where they want.
Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary emphasized the government’s role in supporting the emerging SAF industry in the UK in achieving the Jet Zero goal.
Meanwhile, Branson spoke of the spirit of innovation that drives Virgin Atlantic, saying:
The world will always assume something can’t be done until you do it.
Sir Richard went on to reflect on his airline’s legacy of challenging norms and pushing for advancements in sustainable aviation. He concluded by saying:
The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit. Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo and pushing the aviation industry to never settle and do better since 1984.
Weiss, the airline’s CEO, also spoke of the historic flight, saying, “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 for decarbonizing long-haul aviation.”
Weiss continued, explaining that it has taken “radical collaboration” to get there and how proud they are to have reached this important milestone. However, he added that they need to push further, before calling for increased investment and regulatory support to scale up the production of SAF.
Virgin Atlantic at COP28
COP28 will see the global community gathering in Dubai and the historic flight symbolizes the UK’s stance in addressing transportation’s decarbonization challenges. Moreover, it lays the groundwork for more advancement in the air travel sector. This includes the UK’s commitment to building five SAF commercial plants by 2025.