Virgin Atlantic's VS100: Worlds First 100% SAF Transatlantic Flight

Virgin Atlantic is set to mark a significant milestone with its VS100 flight, a world-first transatlantic 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight scheduled for 28 November 2023. The flight aims to demonstrate the viability of SAF as a sustainable alternative to conventional jet fuel. By harnessing SAF, industries could significantly reduce their carbon footprint, paving the way for sustainable long-haul travel and setting new environmental standards.

Virgin Atlantic Pioneers 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Image Credit: Ivan Marc/Shutterstock.com

The approval process involved detailed reviews of various aspects of the flight and included ground tests conducted with Rolls-Royce on a Trent 1000 engine powered entirely by SAF. This initiative, partially funded by the Department for Transport, marks a significant step towards sustainable aviation.

The flight, set to depart from London Heathrow and arrive at New York JFK on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, underscores the feasibility of long-haul, eco-friendly air travel.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels are a key element of our sustainability strategy, as they will play an important role in decarbonising long-haul flight.

Dr Dirk Geisinger, Director Business Aviation, Rolls-Royce

SAF's Environmental Benefits

The SAF blend used in this flight, comprising 88% Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and 12% synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK), was rigorously tested on Rolls-Royce's Trent 1000 engine. Detailed chemical analysis reveals that this blend mimics traditional jet fuel's energy characteristics while significantly reducing emissions.

The use of HEFA represents a substantial stride in eco-friendly aviation practices. This alternative fuel can curtail net CO2 lifecycle emissions by approximately 80% when compared with traditional jet fuel, offering a profound environmental benefit. Thus, by leveraging SAF, sectors reliant on air transport can drastically reduce their carbon footprint, align with global sustainability goals, and potentially enjoy cost savings in the long term due to the higher efficiency and lower environmental impact of SAF.

SAF plays a crucial role in the aviation sector's decarbonization efforts. This flight will demonstrate SAF's potential as a viable alternative, supporting the industry's transition to Net Zero 2050.

The Jet Zero Strategy

In line with the UK government's Jet Zero strategy, unveiled in July 2022, SAF is a critical component in achieving net-zero emissions in aviation. This comprehensive roadmap envisions a future where air travel does not compromise the planet's health.

The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation. Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available way for our industry to decarbonise, but currently there’s not enough supply and without it and the radical collaboration required to produce it, we can’t meet our 2030 targets.

We need UK government support to create a UK SAF industry to allow for every single flight out of the UK to operate with 100% SAF – if we make it, we can fly it.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic

The upcoming 100% SAF-powered transatlantic flight by Virgin Atlantic marks a watershed moment in aviation history. It represents a collective leap towards sustainable air travel, setting a precedent for future advancements in the industry.

This venture not only advances environmental goals but also signals new opportunities for commercial industries to engage in eco-conscious air transport solutions. The successful execution of this flight could catalyze the widespread adoption of SAF, influencing global aviation policies and practices for a more sustainable future.

Moreover, beyond the flight, the consortium aims to expand SAF usage and explore other environmental improvements in aviation. This includes operational efficiencies, non-CO2 emissions research, and comprehensive life cycle analysis, with any residual CO2 emissions offset by innovative carbon removal projects.

References and Further Reading

  1. Virgin Atlantic granted Permit to Fly for historic transatlantic 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel flight (2023) Civil Aviation Authority. Available at: https://www.caa.co.uk/newsroom/news/virgin-atlantic-granted-permit-to-fly-for-historic-transatlantic-100-sustainable-aviation-fuel-flight/#:~:text=The%20UK%20Civil%20Aviation%20Authority,of%20flying%20on%20100%25%20SAF. (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

  2. (2023) Rolls-royce completes next step on its journey to decarbonising ... Available at: https://www.rolls-royce.com/media/press-releases/2023/18-10-2023-business-aviation-rr-completes-next-step-on-its-journey-to-decarbonising.aspx (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

  3. World first 100% SAF transatlantic flight taxis closer to takeoff (2023) Corporate. Available at: https://corporate.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/media/press-releases/world-first-SAF-transatlantic-flight-taxis-closer-to-takeoff.html (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Bethan Davies

Written by

Bethan Davies

Bethan has just graduated from the University of Liverpool with a First Class Honors in English Literature and Chinese Studies. Throughout her studies, Bethan worked as a Chinese Translator and Proofreader. Having spent five years living in China, Bethan has a profound interest in photography, travel and learning about different cultures. She also enjoys taking her dog on adventures around the Peak District. Bethan aims to travel more of the world, taking her camera with her.

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