The world’s first net-zero emissions transatlantic flight could take off as early as next year, with an aircraft powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel, according to the Department of Transport.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the plans during a visit to the US, during which he invited the international aviation sector to work closely with the UK government to deliver the project.
The initiative has come from the Jet Zero Council, an advisory forum with industry experts, which aims to deliver new ways to cut aviation emissions while supporting the UK economy.
The government said the sustainable fuel industry could support up to 5,200 UK jobs directly, as well as a further 13,600 through global exports, and could reach an annual turnover of £2.3 billion by 2040.
Shapps said: “This trailblazing net-zero emissions flight, a world first, will demonstrate the vital role that sustainable 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 and I look forward to working with them on this challenge, which will lower the impact flying across the Atlantic has on the planet.”
The fuel, made from waste materials such as used cooking oil, offers greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. When combined with greenhouse gas removals, 100% SAF will enable the delivery of a net-zero flight.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “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 £180 million 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 three SAF plants by 2025 and UK airlines have shown real commitment to making this happen with our partnerships with Philipps 66, Velocys and LanzaTech.”