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United to Become First Airline in History to Operate a Passenger Flight Using 100 Percent SAF

Today, United Airlines will make aviation history by becoming the first carrier to operate a full passenger flight using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In partnership with Boeing, CFM, Virent and World Energy, the flight will travel from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

United Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX With Special 'Sustainable' Livery - Courtesy United Airlines

On Wednesday (December 1, 2021), United Airlines announced that they will operate the first-ever passenger flight using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Today’s flight will be conducted in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Virent and World Energy, and will transport over 100 passengers between Chicago (ORD) and Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C. The flight will be operated with a new Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft using 500 gallons of SAF in one engine, and the same amount of conventional jet fuel in the other engine to prove there are no operational differences. Additionally, United further announced today new corporate participants joining their Eco-Skies Alliance, with an effort to collectively purchase 7.1 million gallons of SAF this year including Microsoft, Salesforce and Visa.

In Wednesday’s announcement, United Airlines’ CEO, Scott Kirby, said,

“United continues to lead from the front when it comes to climate change action. Today's SAF flight is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize our industry, but when combined with the surge in commitments to produce and purchase alternative fuels, we're demonstrating the scalable and impactful way companies can join together and play a role in addressing the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.”

Also commenting on the historic SAF flight, CFM International’s President & CEO, Gaël Méheust, said,

“We are honored to be part of this landmark event. Drop-in SAF is something our industry can adopt now to begin making inroads on our commitment to be net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Along with our parent companies, GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines, we applaud United for taking this bold initiative and look forward to even greater cooperation in the future.”

World Energy’s CEO, Gene Gebolys, added,

“When we fly, we connect, and our demand for the connections aviation makes possible are only going to grow. But we need to develop affordable, high energy density, low-carbon liquid fuels at scale everywhere to allow those connections to be made sustainably. The pioneering work is the hardest work, and United has been with us from the very start. The flight path ahead will require tremendous teamwork. We are fortunate to have partners like United to do that work and are thrilled to be a part of this important milestone today.”

Currently, airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50 percent SAF onboard. The SAF used in today’s demonstration flight is ‘drop-in ready’ and compatible with existing aircraft fleets. As previously mentioned, the flight will be operated in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Virent (a subsidiary of Marathon) and World Energy, the world’s first and North America’s only commercial SAF producer. United’s CEO, Scott Kirby, will be joined onboard today’s historic flight by executives from each of the partner companies as well as other business leaders, government officials, NGOs and members of the Media.

Newly Added Eco-Skies Alliance Participants - Courtesy United Airlines

United’s Eco-Skies Alliance program was launched in April 2021 and has now committed to the purchase of over 7 million gallons of SAF this year alone. With a nearly 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis, SAF can eliminate approximately 66,000 metric tons of emissions, or enough to fly passengers over 460 million miles. Including today’s newly announced partners, the program has nearly 30 participants including companies such as DHL Global Forwarding, HP Inc. and Nike.

Source: United Airlines


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