United Flies First Ever Passenger Flight With 100% Sustainable Fuel

United Airlines operated Thursday the first ever passenger flight using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF as part of its efforts to combat climate change.

The airline flew the green flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport or ORD to Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport or DCA with more than 100 passengers.

The demonstration flight was on a new United 737 MAX 8, with 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and the same amount of conventional jet fuel in the other engine. The flight further proved there are no operational differences between the two.

At present, airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50% SAF on board.

The flight was conducted in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Marathon’s unit Virent and commercial SAF producer World Energy. It was the first time in the aviation history that a commercial carrier flew an aircraft full of passengers using 100% SAF.

In the flight, United CEO Scott Kirby joined by executives from each of those companies along with other business leaders, government officials, NGOs and members of the media.

The airline also announced new corporate participants joining its Eco-Skies Alliance program, including Microsoft, Salesforce and Visa in an effort to collectively purchase 7.1 million gallons of SAF this year,

SAF is an alternative fuel made with non-petroleum feedstocks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, SAF has the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint. The vast feedstock resources in the United States are said to be enough to meet the projected fuel demand of the entire U.S. aviation industry.

The airline already has agreements to purchase nearly twice as much SAF as the known agreements of all other global airlines combined.

United’s Eco-Skies Alliance program was launched in April 2021. The current deal to buy more than 7 million gallons of SAF this year alone is enough to eliminate around 66,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, or enough to fly passengers more than 460 million miles, the company noted.

The program has nearly 30 participants including companies like DHL Global Forwarding, HP Inc. and Nike.

United recently agreed to purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from Alder Fuels, enough to fly more than 57 million passengers. It is also an investor in Fulcrum BioEnergy, where United has an option to purchase up to 900 million gallons of additional SAF.

The efforts are part of United’s goal to be 100% green by reducing its GHG emissions 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets.

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