United Airlines tests first flight with an engine running entirely on sustainable aviation fuel

United Airlines has become the first airline in the world to operate a passenger flight with an engine powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

SAFs are manufactured using materials other than crude oil and produce 80% less carbon emissions – although this reduction is all in the production stage, with the fuel emitting at least as much CO2 as traditional kerosene.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 flew from Chicago to Washington DC on Wednesday at 1 p.m. local time, carrying 100 passengers including UnitedCEO of Scott Kirby.

Below Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules, United States Airlines can’t fly SAF alone, so on Wednesday’s flight, United was given special permission to fly with 500 gallons of SAF alone in one engine and the same amount of traditional jet fuel in the other, to demonstrate no difference in performance.

When this detail emerged, critics were quick to accuse the carrier of washing-up behavior after it posted an upbeat tweet about the “historic” flight running on “100% SAF” and calling The flight is “a watershed moment in the industry’s efforts to combat climate change”.

Independent aviation journalist John Walton tweeted: “It helps nobody as airlines lie about sustainability.

“This ‘passenger’ flight is for non-revenue passengers only.

“There’s only one engine that uses 100% sustainable fuel and I didn’t go to math school, but I’m pretty sure that number will go up to 50%.”

A representative on social media for the airline acknowledged the misleading wording on Twitter, writing: “One engine is running at 100% SAF (compared to the mix), while the other is running. conventional jet fuel is currently approved by the FAA (50% of all).”

But a Twitter spokesperson insisted the SAF’s single-engine engine was a win for sustainable aviation, writing: “This flight is historic as it proves that there is no difference in performance when an engine running on 100% SAF (compared to that blend).”

The SAF that United uses is provided by World Energy, which produces fuel from agricultural waste, waste from managed forests, and debris used for landfilling. This is “drop-in fuel,” which means it can be added to an aircraft without modifying the engine fuel system or aeronautical infrastructure.

SAF is a hot topic in the travel industry, but many argue that it doesn’t go far enough in addressing tourism and especially the airline industry’s impact on climate change.

In 2016, United became the first airline in the world to consistently use SAF in its routine operations, mixing it with conventional jet fuel to meet US guidelines. USA.

At last month’s COP26 sustainability event, a coalition of world leaders agreed to “advance the development and deployment, through international and national measures, of aviation fuels.” sustainable development to reduce emissions over the life cycle and contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ”

In September, BA made the first flight using 35% SAF mixed with traditional jet fuel, using the energy-efficient Airbus A320neo.

Meanwhile, in May, BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), became the first European airline group to commit to powering 10% of flight with sustainable aviation fuels by 2030.

However, SAF critics point out that, while airlines claim the fuel reduces CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to fossil fuels, they emit at least as much CO2. The kerosene flight path, as well as similarly harmful non-CO2 emissions, also have a significant warming effect. United Airlines tests first flight with an engine running entirely on sustainable aviation fuel


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