Virgin Atlantic’s Flight100 saved 95 tonnes of CO2 in first SAF flight

Virgin Atlantic has reported headline results from Flight100, the first transatlantic flight on 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).


Flight100, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 using Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, flew from London Heathrow to New York JFK on November 28, 2023 and was the world’s first commercial aircraft operating across the Atlantic on 100 per cent SAF.

According to Virgin Atlantic, the flight did not require any engine, airframe or fuel infrastructure changes and operated on safety standards equivalent to every other commercial flight.

The flight followed over a year of collaboration by a Virgin Atlantic led consortium including Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Imperial College London, Sheffield University, ICF and Rocky Mountain Institute. It was part funded by Department for Transport and approved by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other regulators including the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

The consortium published the results from the flight this week (May 7, 2024), which included a full lifecycle analysis. This revealed that Flight100 saved 95 tonnes of CO2, or 64 per cent of the emissions produced from a standard flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

It was found that SAF also had additional benefits beyond carbon reductions, as the flight reduced non-CO2 particulate emissions by 40 per cent. Virgin Atlantic said that this suggested the use of SAF could have a material impact on improving local air quality at airports and reducing the formation of persistent contrails.

The flight also showed an improved overall fuel burn efficiency of SAF, as Flight100 SAF produced one per cent more energy compared to the same mass of fossil fuel, as well as operational efficiencies to reduce fuel burn.

It was reported that the CO2 savings achieved through efficiency initiatives including direct routing and reduced taxi time resulted in 2.2 tonnes of jet fuel saving, or four per cent of overall fuel burn, which if applied to every Virgin Atlantic flight for a year would be enough fuel saved to fill 24 Olympic sized swimming pools, according to the company.

In a statement, Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: “We have demonstrated that it can be done – SAF is a safe drop-in replacement for fossil fuel and can be used with today’s infrastructure.

“We are ready to fly 100 per cent SAF, but a scale up in production of c. 100 times from where we are today is needed to meet 10 per cent SAF by 2030. We must now see urgent action from government, oil majors and private capital to invest in the production capacity needed to deliver a thriving UK SAF industry. We’ve proven that if enough SAF is made, we will fly it.”

Looking ahead, Virgin Atlantic said that the industry must continue to collaborate for aviation to use SAF on all flights globally. Following the release of the headline results, a consortium led technical deep dive will take place on June 3, 2024, which the contributors said will be a further step to ensure open-source information sharing.

Further, the partners said the UK government must now match ambition with action, by implementing its SAF mandate and moving at pace to invest in a revenue certainty mechanism to create a UK SAF industry, 10,000 jobs and nearly £2bn of economic value for the UK by 2030.