Virgin Atlantic just announced that it’ll operate a net zero carbon transatlantic flight in 2023. The flight will use 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as part of the airline’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.
The science and other stuff to know
Virgin Atlantic has secured £1 million of Government funding to fly a Boeing 787 jet from London Heathrow to New York JFK in 2023 using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) instead of kerosene. The airline will partner with Imperial College London researchers, Rolls-Royce, Boeing, and researchers from the University of Sheffield in the project.
Boeing 787 flight is expected to be fuelled by 100 percent SAF made primarily from waste oils and fats, such as used cooking oil.
“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,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shari Weiss said in a statement.
By entirely replacing kerosene, SAF could slash carbon emissions by more than 70 percent compared to conventional fossil jet fuel, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Using 100 percent SAF on the flight, combined with carbon removal through biochar credits, a material that traps and stores carbon taken from the atmosphere, will make the flight net zero.
While SAF is more expensive to produce than fossil jet fuel, it’s hoped that the London to New York Virgin Atlantic flight will demonstrate the viability of 100 percent SAF flights. It’ll also demonstrate the potential of decarbonized long-haul flights and bring us a step closer to net-zero aviation.
The Boeing 787 is likely to take place toward the end of 2023 with no fare-paying passengers on board.
Virgin Atlantic aims to become the world’s first net-zero carbon airline by offsetting all its carbon emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, the airline plans to work with its suppliers and partners to reduce its carbon footprint and invest in renewable energy and carbon capture technologies.