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Get Ready for the First Zero-Emission London-New York Flight, Coming in 2023

Virgin Atlantic won a government fund competition to carry out the first net zero transatlantic flight 6 photos
Photo: Virgin Atlantic
A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Will Conduct the First Net Zero Transatlantic FlightA Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Will Conduct the First Net Zero Transatlantic FlightA Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Will Conduct the First Net Zero Transatlantic FlightA Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Will Conduct the First Net Zero Transatlantic FlightA Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Will Conduct the First Net Zero Transatlantic Flight
Those who are familiar with the SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) concept will get a highly-anticipated confirmation next year, while those who aren’t, should get ready to hear about it everywhere. This seems to be the Holy Grail of green aviation (for now) and a consortium of industry heavy-hitters is taking it to a historic level.
London-New York flights are a symbol of transatlantic aviation, and now they’ll herald a new historic evolution. That is the capacity to cross continents in flight, with no toxic emissions. It’s no longer a dream, but a promise: the first net zero transatlantic flights are coming next year, through Virgin Atlantic.

The operator won the UK government fund competition for this groundbreaking project. One of its flagship Boeing 787 will be conducting the historic journey from London Heathrow to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport.

What will make this a net zero flight is the use of 100% SAF (meaning it won’t be blended with conventional kerosene) plus the removal of carbon through biochar credits.

This will be the culmination of several SAF-related steps taken in previous years, including various flight tests. Another milestone was also achieved in the UK, when the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s Voyager tanker completed a 100% SAF-powered flight, considered the first of its kind globally.

Rolls-Royce is also part of this upcoming historic endeavor, with its Trent 1000 engines powering Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787. The engine maker is also part of a wider, British-led consortium, together with other major players, including Boeing, ICF, Imperial College London, University of Sheffield, and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

Although this will be a huge achievement, there’s still a long road ahead. The feedback from this flight will be used to advance the research on SAF. At the moment, there’s still a significant limit on how much of this alternative fuel can be allowed in existing jet engines, in order to comply with standard fuel specifications.

Also, green jet fuel production is still limited, anywhere in the world. Therefore, government funded projects, such as this one, are aiming to achieve 100% SAF certification and to scale up production and availability.

The first ever 100% SAF flight across the Atlantic will hopefully mark the beginning of a new stage in this process.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
Otilia Drăgan profile photo

Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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