The UK Ministry of Defense announced that the Royal Air Force (RAF) has completed a 100% sustainable fuel (SAF) flight on an RAF Voyager, the military variant of an Airbus A330. The 90-minute flight was the first ever to use 100% SAF on all engines using a military aircraft of its size, and the first for any aircraft type in the UK.
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is seen as one of the key tools to help decarbonize the aviation industry, which currently accounts for 2-3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. SAF is generally produced from sustainable resources, like waste oils and agricultural residues. SAF producers estimate the fuels can generate up to 80% greenhouse gas emissions saving relative to conventional fuels.
The SAF-powered flight achievement follows the UK government’s launch in July of “Jet Zero,” its strategy to achieve net zero aviation by 2050, with the acceleration of SAF demand and supply identified as a key priority area. Earlier this year, the government announced a pledge to deliver the first-ever net-zero emissions transatlantic flight, powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel by the end of 2023, and outlined a series of initiatives to address barriers to greater SAF use, including high fuel production costs, the need for significant investment to scale infrastructure and production, and feedstock availability.
Baroness Vere, Aviation Minister at the Department for Transport, said:
“Our Jet Zero Strategy made clear that sustainable aviation fuels are key to greener flight for both military and civilian aviation. This is a win for the planet and a testament to British ingenuity.”
The flight marks the latest in a series of sustainable aviation fuel milestones. Late last year, United Airlines announced the completion of the first-ever passenger flight with an engine powered by 100% SAF, and in June 2022, renewable fuel supplier Neste, regional aircraft manufacturer ATR, and Swedish airline Braathens Regional Airlines announced the completion of the first-ever 100% SAF-powered test flight on a commercial regional aircraft.
The Ministry of Defense said that the flight was a joint endeavor of the RAF, the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) agency ,and industry partners Airbus, AirTanker and Rolls-Royce, with the fuel supplied by Air bp.
UK Defence Minister Baroness Goldie said:
“Through the RAF’s pioneering spirit, expertise and partnership with UK industry, British science and engineering is leading the way in improving operational resilience and developing future operating capability in a climate-changed world.”