RAF completes 'breakthrough' first flight using 100% sustainable fuel

RAF Voyager flight was powered by waste-based fuels, including used cooking oil

A Royal Air Force Voyager took part in the first large military aircraft flight in the UK using 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel. PA
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In a world first, the Royal Air Force has piloted the UK’s first large military aircraft flight using 100 per cent sustainable fuel.

RAF Voyager, which is about the size of an Airbus A330, flew over Oxfordshire on Wednesday, powered by waste-based fuels, including used cooking oil.

The feat was described as “a breakthrough moment” for the RAF.

Defence minister Baroness Goldie said: “The Royal Air Force has flown the UK's first military air transport flight using 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel on one of their operational Voyager aircraft.

“They should be rightly proud of this achievement — it is a breakthrough moment for the RAF and an exciting development for the Ministry of Defence.

“Through the RAF's pioneering spirit, expertise and partnership with UK industry, British science and engineering is leading the way in improving operational resilience and developing future operating capability in a climate-changed world.”

Sustainable aviation fuel, known as SAF, has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent, the RAF said.

It is hoped that using the fuel will propel the RAF closer to its target of net zero by 2040, while reducing its reliance on global supply chains.

The flight was led by Airbus defence and space project pilot Jesus Ruiz and chief test pilot for Rolls-Royce Andy Roberts. It was a joint endeavour between the RAF, the Ministry of Defence and industry partners Airbus, AirTanker and Rolls-Royce, with the fuel supplied by Air BP.

It followed 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.

Baroness Vere, aviation minister at the Department for Transport, said the success of the test flights was a “win for the planet and a testament to British ingenuity”.

She added that the d had launched a £165 million fund aimed at boosting the sustainable fuel industry on its journey towards the first net-zero transatlantic flight next year.

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Updated: November 18, 2022, 8:24 PM