Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce Announce Planned 100% SAF Flight Across Atlantic

July 25, 2023
The announcement comes shortly after the successful testing of their SAF blend on the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine

A Virgin Atlantic led consortium and Rolls-Royce announced they are planning a 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) flight across the Atlantic from London Heathrow to New York JFK using a Boeing 787 on November 28, 2023. The announcement comes shortly after the successful testing of their SAF blend on the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine.

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

Air bp and Virent will supply the 60 tons of SAF needed to complete the flight, which will be produced through the Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids pathway in combination with a synthetic aromatic kerosene SAF at an 88% and 12% blend ratio.

SAF makes up less than 0.1% of jet fuel volumes today, and current fuel standards only allow for a 50% SAF blend in commercial jet engines. Virgin Airlines hopes their November flight will demonstrate the potential of SAFs as a 100% replacement for fossil fuels and provide a path forward as the aviation industry attempts to reach net zero.

“Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available way 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,” said Virgin Atlantic CEOL Shai Weiss. “We need UK government support to create a UK SAF industry to allow for every single flight out of the UK to operate with 100% SAF – if we make it, we can fly it."

The UK Department of Transport is funding the Virgin Atlantic consortium, which includes Rolls-Royce, Boeing, the University of Sheffield, the Imperial College London, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“I'm delighted that Virgin Atlantic has confirmed the first ever transatlantic flight powered solely by Sustainable Aviation Fuel will take off this winter,” said Aviation Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton. “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."