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Virgin Atlantic to Operate First Transatlantic Flight with Sustainable Aviation Fuel

The first flight from London to New York powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel is scheduled for November 28 following a successful test run

by Fergus Cole

July 24, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic will make history in November by operating the first transatlantic flight fueled entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The airline and Rolls-Royce recently conducted a successful ground test of the fuel using a Trent 1000 engine.

Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce have announced that on November 28, 2023, the first transatlantic flight powered entirely by SAF will depart from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and land at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The flight will be operated using a Boeing 787, but instead of traditional jet fuel, the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines will run on a 100% SAF blend.


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Virgin Atlantic has chosen Air bp—the aviation arm of giants British Petroleum—and U.K.-based sustainable fuel manufacturer Virent to supply the 60 tonnes of SAF needed for the inaugural flight. The fuel will be produced from a blend of 88% Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and 12% synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK).

“The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonization,” said Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic. “Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available for our industry to decarbonize, 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 U.K. government support to create a U.K. SAF industry to allow for every single flight out of the U.K. to operate with 100% SAF – if we make it, we can fly it.”

Rob Watson, President of Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce, said: “We are incredibly proud that our Trent 1000 engines will power the first ever flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel across the Atlantic.”

Photo: Courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes

“Confirming that we have successfully completed the ground test of the Trent 1000 engine today, using the chosen 100% SAF blend, gives us increased confidence for the engine’s performance and operation ahead of the flight this November. The flight will represent an incredible milestone for the entire aviation industry in its journey towards net zero carbon emissions,” said Watson.

Virgin Atlantic and the U.K. government are committed to decarbonizing the aviation industry over the next few decades. According to the airline, it is already one of the most sustainable operators of transatlantic flights, and using 100% SAF will reduce its flights’ carbon emissions by more than 70% compared to traditional jet fuel, helping it achieve its Net Zero 2050 goals. However, SAF makes up less than 0.1% of jet fuel used worldwide today.

The U.K. Aviation Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, said: “A year on from launching our Jet Zero Strategy, I’m delighted that Virgin Atlantic has confirmed the first ever transatlantic flight powered solely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel will take off this winter. Thanks to government funding, this flight will be a huge step towards net zero and showcase the potential of SAF – creating jobs and helping to grow our economy.”