Virgin Atlantic Shares Results of 100% SAF ‘Flight100’

Virgin Atlantic personnel with Flight100 aircraft
Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has released preliminary findings from Flight100, the world’s first commercial transatlantic flight powered entirely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

This groundbreaking initiative not only confirms the safety and compatibility of SAF with existing infrastructure, but also reveals significant environmental benefits beyond CO2 reduction.

Flight100: A Pioneering Journey

On November 28th, 2023, a Boeing 787 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines using 100% SAF took flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK, marking a historic moment in aviation.

This pioneering feat, achieved through a year-long collaborative effort by Virgin Atlantic and a consortium of industry leaders.

It required no modifications to the aircraft or fuel infrastructure, highlighting seamless integration into existing systems.

Beyond CO2 Reduction: Key Outcomes

The flight’s success extends far beyond simply reducing carbon emissions. Here are some key highlights:

  • Reduced CO2 Emissions: Flight100 achieved a remarkable 95-tonne CO2 reduction, translating to a 64% decrease compared to a standard flight on the same route. This is equivalent to taking 54 cars off the road for a year or powering 33 UK homes.
  • Improved Air Quality: SAF usage led to a 40% decrease in non-CO2 particulate emissions, potentially improving air quality near airports and reducing persistent contrail formation.
  • Enhanced Fuel Efficiency: Surprisingly, SAF delivered 1% more energy compared to the same amount of fossil fuel. This translates to lower fuel consumption and further environmental benefits.
  • Operational Efficiency: Flight optimization strategies like direct routing and reduced taxi times further reduced fuel burn by 2.2 tonnes, equivalent to 4% of the total. Implementing these practices across all Virgin Atlantic flights could save enough fuel to fill 24 Olympic swimming pools annually.

The Path Forward

The success of Flight100 underscores the crucial role of collaboration in achieving sustainable aviation.

A consortium-led technical deep dive scheduled for June 3rd, 2024, will further promote open-source information sharing, a key pillar of this project.

Beyond technological advancements, policy considerations are equally important. To create a thriving UK SAF industry by 2030, Virgin Atlantic urges the government to implement its SAF mandate and invest in a revenue certainty mechanism.

This could generate 10,000 jobs and contribute nearly £2 billion to the UK economy.

Virgin Atlantic and Sustainable Aviation

Flight100 builds upon Virgin Atlantic’s 15-year commitment to sustainable aviation. As a leader in operating a young and fuel-efficient fleet, the airline is actively seeking new solutions to decarbonize the industry.

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, elaborates on the significance of Flight100, stating, “Flight100 was more than a year in the making, demonstrating that together we can achieve more than we can alone.”

Virgin Atlantic is committed to finding new solutions, leading efforts to decarbonise our industry and to share any learnings or innovations. This approach underpins Flight100.”

Weiss emphasizes the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing as fundamental drivers for progress.

He highlights Virgin Atlantic’s dedication to spearheading innovation and leading the industry towards a more sustainable future.

Virgin Atlantic personnel with Flight100 aircraft
Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Further Action Required: Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic, supports the notion of collective effort, stating, “It was a privilege to be onboard Flight100 with the amazing teams that made it happen.”

“Flight100 was an example of what can be achieved through collective ambition and radical collaboration.”

Branson acknowledges Flight100 as a testament to the power of collaboration and challenging the status quo, a core value of Virgin Atlantic. However, he stresses the need for further action.

“Proving that 100% SAF is operationally achievable today, with equivalent safety standards to all our other flights, was a pivotal moment but not a silver bullet.”

“There is more work ahead to scale SAF at pace and whilst we cannot solve that challenge alone, Virgin Atlantic is committed to being at the forefront of the monumental effort required to decarbonise long haul flight.”

Branson acknowledges the limitations of Flight100 as a single event and emphasizes the need for continued efforts, particularly in scaling up production of SAF.

He reiterates Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to being a leader in the fight for sustainable long-haul flights.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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