United Airlines has operated a commercial flight 100% powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in what it described as a “significant milestone” for the sector.
More than 100 passengers travelled on United’s demonstration flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International airport to Washington DC’s Reagan National yesterday (December 1).
SAF is an alternative fuel made with non-petroleum feedstocks, but it is not 100% carbon-free. It is widely accepted to be aviation’s best chance at reducing emissions in the near term.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 had 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and the same amount of conventional jet fuel in the other engine in order to prove there are no operational differences between the two.
Currently, airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50% SAF on board.
United says it has signed agreements to purchase nearly twice as much SAF as the known agreements of all other global airlines combined. It notes that the US Department of Energy believes America’s feedstock resources are enough to meet the projected fuel demand of the country’s entire aviation industry. The SAF used on the demonstration flight is “drop-in ready”, meaning it is compatible with existing aircraft.
Chief executive Scott Kirby said: “United continues to lead from the front when it comes to climate change action.”
He said United’s 100% SAF flight “is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonise our industry, but when combined with the surge in commitments to produce and purchase alternative fuels, we’re demonstrating the scalable and impactful way companies can join together and play a role in addressing the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.”
Kirby joined executives from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, jet engine supplier CFM International, technology firm Virent and SAF producer World Energy.
Boeing senior vice president of sales and marketing, Ihssane Mounir, said: “As an industry, we are committed to addressing climate change, and sustainable aviation fuels are the most measurable solution to reduce aviation carbon emissions in the coming decades.”
This is an excerpt from a news article by Ben Ireland, originally published by Travel Weekly.