The world’s first net-zero emissions transatlantic flight could be delivered by the UK Government and industry as early as next year, ushering in a new era of guilt-free flying in the coming decades. The pioneering flight, on an aircraft powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is expected to take off in 2023.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the ambitious challenge to industry during his visit to the US. Meeting with airline executives, he invited the international sector to work closely with the UK Government to deliver the demonstrator flight in 2023, paving the way for flights on the transatlantic route, and many more, to be powered solely by low-carbon fuel.
The announcement underlines the Government’s commitment to drive forward the sustainable aviation fuel industry, which has the potential to deliver significant carbon savings, improve domestic fuel security, support thousands of green jobs and put flying on a more sustainable path.
Industry estimates suggest that a UK sustainable aviation fuel industry could support up to 5,200 UK jobs directly, as well as a further 13,600 through global exports – helping to level up the UK and boost the economy. The industry estimates its annual turnover could reach £2.3bn by 2040.
The new initiative has come out of the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government which aims to deliver new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions while supporting the UK economy. Today’s announcement is an important part of plans to reduce emissions from aviation to net zero. Currently one of the highest single emitters of greenhouse gases, aviation is one of our biggest challenges when it comes to making transport green, but the investment and innovations such as SAF are there to make guilt-free flying a reality.
The fuel, made from waste materials such as household waste or used cooking oil, offers greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel, [when fully replacing kerosene]. When combined with greenhouse gas removals, 100% SAF will enable the delivery of a net-zero flight.
Trailblazing net-zero emissions flights
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This trailblazing net-zero emissions flight, a world first, will demonstrate the vital role that sustainable aviation fuel can play in decarbonising aviation in line with our ambitious net-zero targets.
“That’s not just great news for the environment, it’s great news for passengers who will be able to visit the Big Apple without increasing damaging greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s crucial that we place sustainability at the heart of the aviation industry’s recovery from Covid-19 and I look forward to working with them on this challenge, which will lower the impact flying across the Atlantic has on the planet.”
Current jet fuel specifications do not allow flights to use 100% SAF, meaning SAF use needs to be complemented by additional decarbonisation measures to be fully net-zero. The Government is committed to accelerating the testing and approval of 100% SAF to unlock the full decarbonisation potential of this technology.
The new initiative has come out of the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government which aims to drive the ambitious delivery of new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions. Today’s announcement is an important part of plans to reduce emissions from aviation to net zero. Currently one of the highest single emitters of greenhouse gases, aviation is one of our biggest challenges when it comes to making transport green, but the investment and innovations such as SAF are there to make guilt-free flying a reality.
Delivering the transatlantic flight announced today would help to gather the data needed to support ongoing and future work to test and certify sustainable aviation fuel, while exploring how engine efficiency improvements, flight optimisation and greenhouse gas removals can contribute to achieving net-zero flights.
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK explained: “UK airlines strongly support the development of a UK SAF industry, which will play a vital role in helping our sector deliver net zero emissions by 2050, as we are committed to doing. This announcement will provide additional momentum to achieving this and, alongside the recent £180m in Treasury support for the development of new UK SAF plants, demonstrates the commitment of Government to making SAF a key part of the decarbonisation of aviation. We now need to turbocharge production in order to build the initial 3 SAF plants by 2025 and UK airlines have shown real commitment to making this happen with our partnerships with Philipps 66, Velocys and LanzaTech.
“We look forward to working with Ministers through the Jet Zero Council to continue to explore mechanisms to attract the required private investment – in addition to a planned mandate – so we can help deliver the Government’s 10% SAF uptake goal by 2030.”
Exciting and ambitious
Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce PLC said: “This is an exciting and ambitious challenge, which Rolls-Royce is ready to support having successfully tested our large commercial aero engines on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel over the last year. We have the technology to help the UK government achieve its objectives and we look forward to working closely with them to deliver this milestone transatlantic flight. Just over 100 years ago, Rolls-Royce powered the first-ever transatlantic flight and now we have the innovation and expertise to power the next generation of sustainable aircraft.”