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World-first commercial flight operates entirely on sustainable fuel

written by Jake Nelson | November 29, 2023

Virgin Atlantic operated the world’s first commercial flight to be powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel. (Image: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has flown the world’s first commercial flight powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Dubbed “Flight100”, flight VS100 aboard the 787-9 G-VDIA departed London Heathrow just before noon local time on Tuesday, arriving at JFK shortly after 2pm local time. The CSIRO has said Australia is in a good position to develop its own domestic SAF industry.

Current fuel standards allow for a SAF blend of only 50 per cent with traditional jet fuel, with SAF making up less than 0.1 per cent of global jet fuel volumes. The fuel used in Flight100 was 88 per cent HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids), made of waste fats, and 12 per cent SAK (synthetic aromatic kerosene), made of plant sugars.

According to Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, the flight was meant to demonstrate the viability of SAF and its compatibility with current aviation technology, including engines, airframes and fuel infrastructure.

“Flight100 proves that Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be used as a safe, drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel and it’s the only viable solution for decarbonising long-haul aviation.


“It’s taken radical collaboration to get here and we’re proud to have reached this important milestone, but we need to push further.

“There’s simply not enough SAF and it’s clear that in order to reach production at scale, we need to see significantly more investment. This will only happen when regulatory certainty and price support mechanisms, backed by Government, are in place. Flight100 proves that if you make it, we’ll fly it.”

In Australia, both government and industry have already expressed interest in building an Australian SAF industry; the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is issuing $30 million in grants across the supply chain.

Qantas, which is partnering with Airbus on a facility in Queensland, told Australian Aviation it endorses the roadmap, with chief sustainability officer Andrew Parker saying it highlights the potential for developing SAF in Australia.

“The mapping of Australia’s feedstock capability is a critical step towards establishing a domestic SAF industry, and highlights the opportunity that exists right across the country,” he said.

“It’s going to take airlines, aircraft manufacturers and industry working together to accelerate the development of a domestic industry.”

The Flying Kangaroo has previously called for a SAF blending mandate similar to those in jurisdictions such as the UK, USA, Europe and Japan.

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