RAF completes first UK flight using 100% sustainable fuel

Posted by Andi

100% sustainable fuel

In a breakthrough moment for aviation, the Royal Air Force (RAF) has successfully piloted the UK’s first flight using 100% sustainable fuel. As well as being a UK first, the voyage was also the first in the world to use fully sustainable fuel for a military aircraft of its size.

What is sustainable aviation fuel?

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 have the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%.

Jet Zero

​​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. 

Synthetic fuel

This RAF flight on 100% sustainable fuel follows on from the world’s first successful flight of a small aircraft powered by synthetic fuel, which completed a 90-minute journey from RAF Brize Norton last November.

Synthetic fuel is made from water and carbon dioxide, which is put under pressure and has an electric current run through it. 

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston described this flight as another “important milestone” en route to becoming the world’s first net zero air force by 2040.

Aviation minister at the Department for Transport (DfT), Baroness Vere, said the success of the test flights were a “win for the planet and a testament to British ingenuity”.

Hydrogen fuel

Another sustainable fuel that has the potential to power aircraft is green hydrogen. Airbus, a European aircraft maker, has announced intentions to construct a hydrogen fuelled aircraft that might be operational by 2035.