United First Airline Flew Aircraft Using 100% Sustainable Fuel - Smart Energy Decisions

GHG Emissions, Industrial, Sourcing Renewables  -  December 2, 2021

United First Airline Flew Aircraft Using 100% Sustainable Fuel

United Airlines became the first commercial carrier in aviation history to fly an aircraft full of passengers using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

“United continues to lead from the front when it comes to climate change action,” said United CEO Scott Kirby in a statement. “Today’s SAF flight is 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.”

The demonstration flight, which departed with more than 100 passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and landed at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport will be on a new United 737 MAX 8 and use 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and the same amount of conventional jet fuel in the other engine to further prove there are no operational differences between the two.

SAF is an alternative fuel made with non-petroleum feedstocks and has the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint. Airlines are currently only permitted to use a maximum of 50% SAF on board. The SAF used on the flight is drop-in ready and compatible with existing aircraft fleets.

United operated this flight in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon, and World Energy, a commercial SAF producer. 

United’s Eco-Skies Alliance program was launched in April 2021 and has contributed toward the purchase of more than 7 million gallons of SAF this year alone. With its nearly 80% GHG emissions reductions on a lifecycle basis compared to conventional jet fuel, this is enough SAF to eliminate approximately 66,000 metric tons of GHG emissions or enough to fly passengers more than 460 million miles. The program has nearly 30 participants including companies like DHL Global Forwarding, HP Inc., and Nike.

The SAF flight and new Eco-Skies Alliance participants are among the latest accomplishments towards 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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