Virgin Atlantic will operate the world’s first ‘net zero’ transatlantic flight, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.
The airline has secured £1million in government funding to fly a Boeing 787 from London Heathrow to New York JFK next year using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) instead of kerosene.
Virgin Atlantic and its partners are providing similar funding.
SAF is expected to be produced primarily from waste oils and fats, such as used cooking oil.
SAF reduces carbon emissions by more than 70% compared to kerosene.
Using SAF combined with carbon offset credits will make the flight “net zero”, according to the DfT.
The flight is expected to take place towards the end of 2023 without paying passengers on board.
Commercial flights can currently only use SAF when blended with standard aviation fuel up to 50%.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “For decades, flying from London to New York has symbolized aviation’s ability to connect people and drive international progress.
“It will now be at the forefront of reducing the carbon emissions of flight.
“Not only will this flight pave the way for future generations, it will show how much we can achieve when we work together on a common goal – bringing together some of the world’s best businesses and academics and led by a British airline.”
The government believes that SAF is crucial to decarbonising aviation and has the ambition, as part of the Jet Zero strategy, that at least five commercial scale production plants will be under construction in the UK by 2025.
But green fuel is currently several times more expensive to produce than kerosene.
It is hoped that the London-New York Virgin Atlantic flight will demonstrate the viability of 100% SAF flights.
Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss said: “This challenge recognizes the critical role that SAF must play in decarbonizing aviation and the urgent collective action needed to expand the production and use of SAF to worldwide.
“The research and results will be an important step in accelerating the use of SAFs in the aviation industry and will support the investment, collaboration and urgency needed to produce SAFs at scale.
“Our collective ambition of net zero by 2050 depends on it.”