Energy & environment

Can SAF really usher in a new era of guilt-free flying?

The UK Government is planning to run the first net-zero transatlantic flight in 2023, using SAF. How great a milestone is this and how excited should eco-conscious passengers be? Abi Millar investigates.

On 4 May, the UK transport secretary made a bold announcement: the first net-zero transatlantic flight will take to the skies next year. Speaking to industry leaders in the US, Grant Shapps said the test flight will be powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a low-carbon fuel made from waste products such as used cooking oil.

“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,” said Shapps. “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.”

The flight will be supported by up to £1m of competition funding and comes courtesy of an industry-government partnership called the Jet Zero Council. It is part of a broader effort to kickstart the UK SAF industry, which includes £180m in government funding to develop new production plants.

“This is an apt opportunity for the UK to double down on its SAF credentials and really cement its place as the leader in production and use of SAF,” says Bhanu Choudhrie, founder of Alpha Aviation Group. “News of the first transatlantic flight by an aircraft powered 100% by SAF is a momentous happening for the future of aviation.”

Momentous it may be, not to mention great PR for an industry working overtime to recover from the pandemic. But will the announcement really, as the accompanying press release would have it, ‘usher in a new era of ‘guilt-free flying’? Or should eco-conscious passengers hold off on booking their round-the-world trips for now?

Read the rest of this article in the June 2022 edition of Airport Industry Review

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