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Virgin Atlantic Operates World’s First SAF Flight From London Heathrow to New York JFK

Virgin Atlantic conducted the world’s first flight between London Heathrow and New York-JFK powered by 100 percent Sustainable aviation Fuel (SAF) on Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner Rendering (Previous Livery) - Courtesy Boeing

On Tuesday (November 28, 2023), Virgin Atlantic announced the launch of their historic ‘Flight100’ powered by 100 percent SAF between London (LHR) and New York (JFK).  The aircraft for the historic flight was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.  SAF will play a significant role in the decarbonization of long-haul aviation and the pathway to net zero emissions by 2050.  The fuel, which is made from waste products, delivers a lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70 percent compared to conventional jet fuel.  Although other technologies such as electric and hydrogen are promising over the long-term, SAF can be used as a safe drop-in replacement for fossil-derived fuel today.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Executive Officer, Shai Weiss, said,

“Flight100 proves that Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be used as a safe, drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel and it’s the only viable solution for decarbonising long haul aviation.  It’s taken radical collaboration to get here and we’re proud to have reached this important milestone, but we need to push further.

“There’s simply not enough SAF and it’s clear that in order to reach production at scale, we need to see significantly more investment.  This will only happen when regulatory certainty and price support mechanisms, backed by Government, are in place.  Flight100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it.”

Also commenting on the historic SAF-powered flight, Virgin Atlantic’s Founder, Sir Richard Branson, said,

“The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it.  The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit.

“Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo and pushing the aviation industry to never settle and do better since 1984.  Fast forward nearly 40 years, that pioneering spirit continues to be Virgin Atlantic’s beating heart as it pushes the boundaries from carbon fibre aircraft and fleet upgrades to sustainable fuels.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be onboard Flight100 today alongside the teams at Virgin Atlantic and our partners, which have been working together to set the flight path for the decarbonisation of long-haul aviation.”

Currently, SAF represents less than 0.1 percent of global jet fuel volumes and fuel standards allow for only a 50 percent blend of SAF to power commercial aircraft engines.  The SAF used on Flight100 was a unique blend of 88 percent HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids) supplied by AirBP and 12 percent SAK (Synthetic Aromatic Kerosene) supplied by Virent, a Marathon Petroleum Corporation subsidiary.  HEFA is produced from waste fats, while SAK is made from plant sugars, and is needed in 100 percent SAF blends to give the fuel the required aromatics for proper engine function.    


Founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in 1984, Virgin Atlantic has brought innovation and the highest level of customer care to the airline industry.  The carrier was voted Britain’s only Global Five Star Airline by APEX in 2023 for the seventh consecutive year.  Headquartered in London, Virgin Atlantic employs over 7,500 team members worldwide.  The airline currently serves 31 destinations across four continents.  Alongside shareholder and Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic operates a leading network between the US and UK, with onward connections to over 200 cities around the world.  Virgin Atlantic is a member of the global SkyTeam alliance.


Source: Virgin Atlantic

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