In a historic achievement for environmentally friendly aviation, this week saw the world’s first flight powered by 100% sustainable fuel. The successful test is a giant step toward reducing the environmental impact of air travel and demonstrates the viability of alternative fuels as a means to curbing aviation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a historic day for aviation. After more than a century of commercial flights powered by kerosene, we are at the dawn of a new era.

Sweden’s Braathens Regional Airlines, in conjunction with Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR and Finnish fuel producer Neste announced this week the world’s first successful flight of a commercial regional aircraft flown using 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Unlike prior tests, this flight utilised SAF in both engines, and propels the group toward full SAF certification, a process which first began in September 2021 and is expected to be complete in 2025. ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli commented on the achievement, noting that “this is a historic day for aviation. After more than a century of commercial flights powered by kerosene, we are at the dawn of a new era.” The company hopes that the aviation industry takes notice and that this breakthrough ushers in a speedier transition to zero emission flights.

The Future Of Flight Is SAF And Low Impact Aircraft

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is made from 100% renewable materials. Manufacturer Neste is committed to increasing the portfolio of materials used, and is working toward including municipal solid waste and algae alongside existing components such as animal waste and sustainably produced vegetable oils currently being used to produce SAF. The company envisions SAF as a direct replacement for fossil jet fuel and is fostering partnerships within the industry to ensure its increased availability and adoption.

Sustainable fuel pairs perfectly with sustainable aircraft. ATR operates its aviation business in an eco-friendly manner, from infrastructure services through to the aircraft they build. The company claims to produce regional aircraft that set the bar for eco-responsibility, through sustainable materials and operating procedures. The planes are powered by either a Turbojet or Turboprop (propeller), using an estimated 40% less fuel and CO2 than traditional mechanisms. Once they reach the end of their useful life, parts are recycled and reused, to the tune of nearly 9 tonnes of aircraft components salvaged (roughly 85% of all parts) and a total of five aircraft recycled since 2018. The company also prides itself on a smaller infrastructure footprint, especially it’s Turboprop aircraft, which require a fraction of the size compared to traditional jet-engine airplanes, coming in at only 900m long by 30m wide for the runway.

Hope For A Greener Future

The frequency of international and domestics flights dropped in the last few years leading to a reduction of carbon emissions due to the pandemic. However, they are returning to pre-pandemic levels thanks to the global relaxation of health and travel restrictions and many people’s desire to travel after not being allowed to for several years. With industry associations such as IATA pushing for sustainability amongst member companies, the time is right to adopt more environmentally friendly means of flight to head off the anticipated rise in aviation-related pollution that is soon to follow. Adoption of SAF, with its 80% lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to traditional jet-fuel, and a greater emphasis on low-impact aircraft ecosystems are two promising solutions that can help deliver a greener future for air travel.

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