Virgin Jet Lands After Transatlantic Flight on Low-Carbon Fuel

( – A Virgin Atlantic flight, powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), successfully completed a journey from London to New York, underscoring the potential of low-carbon alternatives in the aviation industry. The flight featured a Boeing 787 from Virgin, utilizing Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. While this demonstration isn’t the first of its kind in the industry, it remains significant in emphasizing the sector’s commitment to emission reduction.

Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson, and a few others were on board the flight, which will return to London using conventional jet fuel. Airlines are increasingly looking toward fuel derived from waste to cut emissions by up to 70%. However, the high cost and limited supply of materials for SAF make it hard for production on a large scale. Currently, SAF represents less than 0.1% of global jet fuel consumption and is priced three to five times higher than regular jet fuel.

The flight’s use of 100% SAF, authorized by regulators in the US, Canada, and the UK, is a notable milestone. Traditional jet engines are not yet certified for over 50% SAF, and most flights incorporate SAF in much lower proportions alongside traditional jet fuel.

Aviation, accounting for approximately 2-3% of global carbon emissions, faces challenges in decarbonization compared to road travel. Branson emphasized the necessity of starting somewhere to increase the availability of sustainable aviation fuel.

The SAF used in the flight is primarily derived from used animal fats and cooking oils, mixed with a small quantity of kerosene from waste corn. The hope is that such initiatives will garner government support to make SAF more accessible.

Critics, such as environmental advocacy group Stay Grounded, dismissed the flight as “greenwashing,” emphasizing the urgent need to reduce overall flights and fossil jet fuel consumption. Nonetheless, industry leaders see SAF as the key to decarbonizing long-haul aviation, highlighting the need for shared responsibility and support from governments and businesses alike.

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