Boeing is using a 777-200 as part of the sixth iteration of its ecoDemonstrator programme. The former Air China aircraft, N772ET (c/n 29747), will serve as a flying testbed for 50 projects from later this year.
The US manufacturer has launched the latest round of flight testing to “assess new technologies which could address real world challenges for aircraft operators and passengers”.
Mike Sinnett, vice president of product strategy and future airplane development at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “This is the latest addition to our ecoDemonstrator programme, where we look at how crew and passengers can have a better experience and how technologies can make flying safer, more efficient and more enjoyable. Using the 777 flying test bed lets us learn faster and move forward on improvements much quicker and with greater fidelity in defining their value.”
Among the technologies being tested on this year’s ecoDemonstrator programme are:
- Sharing digital information between air traffic control, the flight deck and an airline’s operations centre to optimise routing efficiency and safety.
- An electronic flight bag application that uses next-generation communications to automatically provide rerouting information to pilots when weather conditions warrant.
- Connected cabin technologies that make galleys and lavatories ‘smart’ and monitor cabin conditions such as temperature and humidity to facilitate automatic adjustments.
- Cameras to provide more passengers with a view outside the airplane.
Flight tests will take place this autumn and include a trip to Frankfurt, Germany, where the ecoDemonstrator’s technology mission will be “presented to government officials, industry representatives and STEM students to help inspire the next generation in aerospace leadership”. Most of the test flights will fly on sustainable aviation fuel to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and demonstrate the fuel’s viability.
A key part of the programme is collaboration with industry partners to jointly test technologies and share learnings that advance aviation. It began in 2012 when it paired with American Airlines on a 737-800, N897NN (c/n 33318). The airliner was used to validate the aerodynamic performance of natural laminar flow technology later used in the Split Scimitar winglet, which can be found on the 737 MAX and retrofitted 737NG aircraft.
Two years later, Boeing collaborated with Japan Airlines, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Delta Air Lines on a second programme which involved 787-8, N7874 (c/n 40693). Testing included trials of NASA’s Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes to improve landing efficiency, the evaluation of greenhouse gas sensors and outer wing access doors made from recycled 787 carbon fibre to reduce material costs and factory waste.
In 2015, a former United Airlines 757-220, N757ET (c/n 24627) was used by Boeing, TUI Group and NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project to evaluate new technologies to improve commercial aviation’s efficiency, reduce noise and carbon emissions. It involved the use of ‘bug-phobic coatings’ to reduce the residue left by bug strikes on the leading edges of aircraft wings.
An Embraer 170, PP-XJB (c/n 17000003) was used a year later when the two manufacturers partnered on the testing of ice-phobic paint designed to reduce icing and help prevent accumulation of dirt and bugs due to its low adhesive property. Improved slats to reduce noise on take-off and approach and Brazilian-produced biofuel blend made up of 10 percent bio-kerosene and 90 percent fossil kerosene were also trialled.
Most recently, FedEx 777F, N878FD (c/n 40684) was used in 2017. That round of testing included installing a compact thrust reverser developed by Boeing designed to save fuel, flight deck improvements that can improve efficient operations in and out of busy airports, and flying prototype components using manufacturing techniques that reduce material waste.