United Airlines Completes First Passenger Flight Using 100 Percent SAF in One Tank

Flight from Chicago to Washington D.C. was the first such mission to use the renewable fuel.

United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) made history this week when the carrier flew a jet with more than 100 passengers using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel in one tank. The flight between Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Washington’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) on Tuesday is the first commercial passenger-carrying flight using the renewable fuel. 

United CEO Scott Kirby was onboard the flight. In a statement, he noted the flight was “not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize our industry, but when combined with the surge in commitments to produce and purchase alternative fuels, we’re demonstrating the scalable and impactful way companies can join together and play a role in addressing the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.”

Currently, airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50 percent SAF. The demonstration flight of the new United 737 MAX 8 carried 500 gallons of drop-in SAF in the right tank and 500 gallons of conventional fuel in the other to prove there are not operational differences between SAF and conventional jet fuel.

Airlines are limited to a maximum of 50 percent SAF. Credit: United Airlines

United notes the flight was possible because of partnerships with other companies dedicated to reducing carbon emissions, including:

  • Boeing (NYSE: BA)
  • CFM International
  • Virent—a subsidiary of Marathon whose technology enables 100 percent drop-in SAF
  • World Energy—the world’s first and North America’s only commercial SAF producer. 

World Energy is North America’s first supplier of SAF, operating out of Paramount, California. World Energy currently produces approximately 35 million gallons of a SAF a year and has a goal of increasing that to 275 million gallons by 2022.

United notes that it’s the world leader in the usage and support for the development of SAF. Additionally, the legacy air carrier has agreements to purchase nearly twice as much SAF as the known agreements of all other global airlines combined.

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