The first transatlantic flight takes off from Heathrow Airport using agricultural waste and cooking oil for New York JFK.
The Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is using pure sustainable aviation fuel known as (Saf) which shows “how we can decarbonise transport.”
Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin, Harper and Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss are amongst the passengers on flight that is not carrying fare-paying travellers.
The Transport Secretary said, “Today’s 100% Saf-powered flight shows how we can decarbonise transport both now and in the future, cutting lifecycle emissions by 70% and inspiring the next generation of solutions.
“This government has backed today’s flight to take off and we will continue to support the UK’s emerging Saf industry as it creates jobs, grows the economy and gets us to jet zero.”
Harper was asked if the greenest option is not to fly, he told BBC Breakfast, “people want to fly and this Government wants to make sure they can continue doing so, but in a way that delivers on our environmental provisions.”
Sir Richard said, “The world will always assume something can’t be done, until you do it.
“The spirit of innovation is getting out there and trying to prove that we can do things better for everyone’s benefit.
“Virgin Atlantic has been challenging the status quo and pushing the aviation industry to never settle and do better since 1984.”
Weiss said, “Getting to this point has been more than a year in the making and taken radical collaboration across our consortium partners and Government.
“We’re committed to using 10% Saf by 2030, but to get there we need the Government to support the creation of a UK Saf industry.
“We know that if we can make it, we can fly it.”
Campaign group the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) policy director Cait Hewitt said: “The idea that this flight somehow gets us closer to guilt-free flying is a joke.
“Saf represent around 0.1% of aviation fuel globally and will be very hard to scale up sustainably.”
Hewitt added, “Hopefully, we’ll have better technological solutions in future but, for now, the only way to cut CO2 from aviation is to fly less.”