Virgin Atlantic Set To Conduct Worlds First Net Zero Transatlantic Flight

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo Credit: AviationSource/ Harrison Rowe
Photo Credit: AviationSource/ Harrison Rowe

LONDON – UK Carrier Virgin Atlantic is set to become the first carrier in the world to conduct a net zero transatlantic flight in 2023, with the flight solely being operated with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The airline will use one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to conduct the landmark moment.

UK Government Helps Fund Project

The flight is being conducted after the airline received funding from the UK government for the flight to prove that SAF is a viable replacement option for jet fuel, and will also play a key part in decarbonising aviation.

It will work with a consortium that includes Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Imperial College London, the University of Sheffield, RMI, and ICF. When fully replacing current Jet Fuel options, SAF can cut down carbon emissions by more than 70% in a lifecycle, compared to conventional jet fuel that is widely used today.

The test flight will also be a good indication of the viable implementation of the current variations of SAF, with a successful flight opening the possibility of creating a UK industry with an annual turnover of £2.4 billion pounds by 2040, which would also create an estimated 5,200 new jobs in the UK by 2035.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “For decades, flying from London to New York has symbolised aviation’s ability to connect people and drive international progress. It’s now going to be at the forefront of cutting carbon emissions from flying.

“Not only will this flight pave the way for future generations, but it will demonstrate just how much we can achieve when we work together on a shared goal – bringing together some of the best businesses and academics in the world and led by a British airline.”

Global Commitment to Carbon Neutral 2050

Airlines globally have committed to the shared goal of making the industry carbon natural by 2050, but many experts have said that this is not quick enough and that more must be done to help eliminate the climate impact aviation has.

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, added: “As an airline founded on and committed to innovation, we’re proud to lead a cross-industry consortium of partners to make aviation history by operating the first ever 100% SAF flight across the Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight in 1984 was to New York and today it continues to be one of our most popular routes. It will be an honour to pave the way for this important business and leisure route to become even more sustainable.

“This challenge recognises the critical role that SAF has to play in decarbonising aviation and the urgent collective action needed to scale production and use of SAF globally. The research and results will be a huge step in fast-tracking SAF use across the aviation industry and support the investment, collaboration and urgency needed to produce SAF at scale. Our collective ambition of Net Zero by 2050 depends on it.”

This is arguably one of the most important flights that will take place in aviation, as successful completion of this flight will mean that SAF will have a base template on which it can be better developed and built upon, allowing for more efficient and possibly even cheaper variations of SAF being produced in the years to come.

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