Henry Smith MP congratulates Crawley-based Virgin Atlantic on first Sustainable Aviation Fuel flight

Henry Smith MP has welcomed the successful world’s first 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) transatlantic flight, which took off from London and landed in New York (on Tuesday, 28th November).
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The Crawley MP has been a champion in Parliament of the enhanced use of SAF and was on board Virgin Atlantic Flight100 from Heathrow to John F Kennedy International Airport.

Speaking on board after the flight landed, Henry said: “I’m very proud of Crawley-headquartered Virgin Atlantic Airways for accepting the UK Government’s challenge to fly the world’s first transatlantic 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel flight which it has now achieved.

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“Being onboard and part of this significant environmental as well as aviation milestone was a privilege.

Henry Smith MP at Flight100Henry Smith MP at Flight100
Henry Smith MP at Flight100

“This is a significant and historic achievement for British aviation and I’m grateful for Government’s backing for this technology.

“I’ve been clear through my representations in Parliament that our country can do more to enhance the development of SAF in the UK.

“I’ve been a long-standing advocate of Government giving its support for decarbonised aviation in Britain through a home-grown SAF industry.

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“Let this successful 100 per cent SAF London to New York flight be a moment we will look back on in the years and decades to come where new opportunities for aviation were proven.”

Sir Richard Branson and Henry Smith MPSir Richard Branson and Henry Smith MP
Sir Richard Branson and Henry Smith MP

The flight on G-VDIA, one of Virgin Atlantic’s 17 Boeing 787s, marked the first time 100 per cent SAF has been flown in both engines, by a commercial airline, for long-haul flight, and used Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

The flight showcased the capability of SAF as a safe drop-in replacement for fossil-derived jet fuel, compatible with today’s engines, airframes and fuel infrastructure.

The decarbonisation of long-haul aviation, and the pathway to Jet Zero – net zero aviation by 2050 – will see a significant role played by SAF.

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The fuel, made from waste products, delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of up to 70 per cent, whilst performing like the traditional jet fuel it replaces.

On board Flight100On board Flight100
On board Flight100

SAF can be used now, in contrast with other technologies such as electric and hydrogen which remain decades away.

Currently, SAF represents less than 0.1 per cent of global jet fuel volumes and fuel standards allow for only a 50 per cent SAF blend in commercial jet engines.

The Crawley MP, whose constituency includes Gatwick Airport and also serves as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation, has continued to champion a UK SAF industry, including highlighting this in the House of Commons during the King’s Speech debate earlier this month.

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The first fully SAF flight goes to highlight that the challenge of scaling up production requires further action from industry and Government to create a thriving UK SAF industry.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, commented: “Today’s historic flight, powered by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel, shows how we can both decarbonise transport and enable passengers to keep flying when and where they want.

“This Government has backed today’s flight to take-off and we will continue to support the UK’s emerging SAF industry as it creates jobs, grows the economy and gets us to Jet Zero.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, said: “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.

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“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.”

The Founder of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, added: “The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it. The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit.

“Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo and pushing the aviation industry to never settle and do better since 1984. Fast forward nearly 40 years, that pioneering spirit continues to be Virgin Atlantic’s beating heart as it pushes the boundaries from carbon fibre aircraft and fleet upgrades to sustainable fuels.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be onboard Flight100 today alongside the teams at Virgin Atlantic and our partners, which have been working together to set the flight path for the decarbonisation of long-haul aviation.”