First zero carbon emissions transatlantic flight from UK to take-off in 2023
The UK government has announced that the first ever net zero transatlantic flight will take off next year, with Virgin Atlantic receiving government funding to fly across the pond using solely sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
In 2023, one of Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Boeing 787s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will take off from London Heathrow and make the journey to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport – a journey made by thousands of people for business, family, and leisure every week. But this will be no ordinary journey.
When fully replacing kerosene, SAF can slash lifecycle carbon emissions by over 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.
This flight is expected to be fuelled by SAF made primarily from waste oils and fats, such as used cooking oil. The use of 100% SAF on the flight, combined with carbon removal through biochar credits – a material which traps and stores carbon taken from the atmosphere – will make the net zero flight.
Not only will SAF be key in decarbonising aviation, but it could create a UK industry with an annual turnover of £2.4 billion by 2040, and which supports up to 5,200 UK jobs by 2035.
UK 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.”
While the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, said: “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.”