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First flight using 100% sustainable jet fuel crosses the ocean

The U.S. Department of Energy says sustainable aviation fuel can help reduce carbon emissions from flights by up to 70%.
First flight using 100% sustainable jet fuel crosses the ocean
Posted at 10:37 AM, Nov 29, 2023

A commercial airliner has made the first-ever transatlantic journey running on 100% sustainable jet fuel, marking a significant step toward achieving what many are dubbing "jet zero."

The Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 passenger flight, powered entirely by cooking oils and animal fat, took off from London's Heathrow airport Tuesday morning before landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. While Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson, Chief Executive Shai Weiss, and U.K. Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper were the only passengers on board, the flight marks the first time a long-distance commercial flight was powered using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

"The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it," Branson said in a statement. "The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit."

SEE MORE: US greenhouse pollution climbed in 2021, thanks to fossil fuel use

The U.K. Transport Department provided about $1.2 million to plan and operate the flight in an effort to make air travel more sustainable. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was "a major milestone" in the path toward net-zero air travel. 

"Not only will SAF be key in decarbonising aviation, but it could create a U.K. industry with an annual turnover of almost 2.5 billion pounds (over $3 billion), which could support over 5,000 U.K. jobs," Sunak said in a social media post.  

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, sustainable aviation fuel can reduce carbon emissions from flights by up to 70%. However, SAF accounted for less than 0.1% of jet fuel used by major airlines last year. 

The U.S. has set aspirational goals to produce 3 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030, with 100% of commercial jet fuel being SAF by 2050. The U.K. hopes 10% of jet fuel will come from sustainable sources by the end of this decade.

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