Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce complete SAF engine ground test


Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce have confirmed the successful Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) blend test on Rolls-Royce’s Trent 1000 engine. This is a step towards the first 100% SAF Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight to travel from London Heathrow to New York JFK scheduled to take off on 28th November 2023.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be an historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation. Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available way for our industry to decarbonise, but currently there’s not enough supply and without it and the radical collaboration required to produce it, we can’t meet our 2030 targets.”

Air bp and Virent are set to supply the 60t of SAF required for the testing and flight itself. The SAF will be produced through the Hydro-processed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and the synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK) SAF pathways at an 88% and 12% blend ratio.

Andreea Moyes, global aviation sustainability director, Air bp said: “We are thrilled to be supplying Sustainable Aviation Fuel for the world’s first 100% SAF transatlantic flight. SAF is currently the most viable option to help us meet the industry’s net zero ambition and in the short and medium term it will be the only option for long-haul flights. Moving our industry and policy towards the use of 100% SAF is important as we work in collaboration with key stakeholders to help decarbonise aviation.”

Dave Kettner, president & general counsel, Virent said: “With Virent’s plant-based Synthesised Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) providing essential fuel components, this test showed that 100% drop-in renewable fuel is cleaner burning and will work seamlessly in today’s commercial airline engines,” said Dave Kettner, president & general counsel, Virent. “We’re honoured to collaborate with Virgin Atlantic, Rolls-Royce and Air bp as these forward-looking companies lead the way in sustainable aviation. Virent shares their commitment to finding sustainable ways to fly and we’re excited about the pivotal role our BioForm SAK plays in making that goal a reality.”

The project is led by Virgin Atlantic and joint funded by the UK Department of Transport at the head of a consortium that includes; Rolls-Royce, Boeing, University of Sheffield, Imperial College London and Rocky Mountain Institute. The test is a step forward but further permissions and safety approvals are required before the November flight.

Rob Watson, president, Civil Aerospace, Rolls-Royce said: “We are incredibly proud that our Trent 1000 engines will power the first ever flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel across the Atlantic. Confirming that we have successfully completed the ground test of the Trent 1000 engine today [xxx], using the chosen 100% SAF blend, gives us increased confidence for the engine’s performance and operation ahead of the flight this November. The flight will represent an incredible milestone for the entire aviation industry in its journey towards net zero carbon emissions.”