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Passenger plane crossed the Atlantic with used cooking oil for fuel

 

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic makes history with first transatlantic flight powered by cooking oil and animal fat


In a groundbreaking feat, a Virgin Atlantic airliner became the first in history to cross the Atlantic using clean and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This revolutionary fuel, made from used cooking oil and animal fat residues, marks a significant step towards a greener future for aviation.


Leading the charge was none other than Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, who was joined onboard by Britain's transport minister Mark Harper and Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss. This historic flight served as a testament to Virgin's commitment to sustainability and its dedication to pioneering innovative solutions for the aviation industry.


The journey from London Heathrow Airport to New York's JFK was not just about crossing an ocean; it was about pushing boundaries and proving the viability of SAF as a viable alternative to traditional jet fuel. This monumental undertaking was supported by a grant of 1.5 million euros from the British government, enabling Virgin Atlantic to demonstrate the effectiveness of SAF.


Prior to the flight, the Civil Aviation Authority conducted rigorous inspections and ground tests, including running an engine on 100% SAF, ensuring the safety and efficacy of this groundbreaking technology.


But what exactly is SAF? This revolutionary fuel is produced from sustainable raw materials, mimicking the chemical composition of conventional jet fuel. However, unlike its traditional counterpart, SAF boasts a significantly lower carbon footprint over its life cycle.


The cooking oil comparison originates from the diverse range of sustainable materials used to create SAF. These include used cooking oil, non-palm oils, animal and plant fat residues, and even solid waste from homes and businesses, like packaging, paper, textiles, and food waste. Additionally, forest waste and energy crops hold potential as future sources.


The flight's SAF specifically was derived from used cooking oil and leftover animal fat. By utilizing these readily available resources, Virgin Atlantic showcased the potential of SAF to contribute to a more sustainable future.


The environmental benefits of SAF are undeniable. A single return flight between London and San Francisco generates a carbon footprint of nearly 1 tonne CO2e per economy ticket. As the aviation industry is expected to double to over 8 billion passengers by 2050, finding ways to reduce its carbon footprint is crucial.


Fortunately, SAF offers a solution. This clean fuel can be blended with traditional jet fuel at a maximum ratio of 50%, requiring no modifications to existing engines. Additionally, it offers a significant reduction in carbon emissions – up to 80% compared to traditional jet fuel, depending on the specific source and production processes.


Despite its advantages, one major challenge remains: cost. Currently, SAF is more expensive than conventional jet fuel due to limited availability of sustainable raw materials and the ongoing development of production technologies. However, as research and development efforts continue, costs are expected to decrease, making SAF a more accessible and affordable option in the future.


The successful transatlantic flight by Virgin Atlantic marks a momentous occasion in the aviation industry. It serves as a powerful symbol of progress towards a cleaner, more sustainable future and paves the way for widespread adoption of SAF. With continued innovation and collaboration, the sky's the limit for this groundbreaking technology.

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