United Airlines just operated the first sustainable passenger flight on Wednesday and this has potentially changed the dynamic of sustainable air travel. It used the 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) which proved that flights can function just as smoothly with this fuel as they can with the conventional one.
The plane was United’s new Boeing 737 Max 8s. There were more than 100 passengers on it, including the company’s CEO Scott Kirby. It took off from Chicago’s O’Hare airport and landed at Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport. Currently, flights can only use 50 percent of SAF mixed with the regular fuel but for this flight, the company acquired permission to use 500 gallons of 100 percent SAF in one engine and the same amount of conventional fuel in the other.
The company hopes that this will make a shift in the industry in favor of using SAF entirely. The flight was 612-mile long and the engine using SAF emitted 75 percent less carbon dioxide than an engine using conventional fuel normally would. The engine of the flight did not need any modifications to use this fuel.
“Today’s SAF flight is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize 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 said in a statement.
However, there is still some work that needs to be done. SAF costs four times as much as conventional fuel. Production would also need to be on a larger scale. This month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told Bloomberg News that the nation’s current supply of SAF is only enough to fuel his company’s fleet for a single day.
If these issues are overcome, this will definitely take the airline industry to the next level.