Boeing's ecoDemonstrator 2012 programme to start testing of advanced fuel efficiency and noise reduction technologies
American Airlines 737-800 ecoDemonstrator rolls out of the Boeing paint hangar (photo: Boeing)
Mon 16 July 2012 – In-flight testing of five core environmental technologies is about to begin as part of Boeing’s 2012 ecoDemonstrator programme. A brand new Boeing 737-800 aircraft destined for the American Airlines’ fleet is being outfitted with the advanced technologies and test equipment before it begins a month of intense testing in Glasgow, Montana. Each technology has the goal of reducing fuel consumption, lowering noise and testing the viability of sustainable materials. Each of the test flights as well two flights planned to Reno, Nevada, and Washington DC will use a blend of biofuel sourced from used cooking oil supplied by Dynamic Fuels via SkyNRG. The aim of the ecoDemonstrator programme is to accelerate application-ready technologies and Boeing demonstrators in the past have resulted in innovations such as the noise-reducing saw-toothed chevrons now seen on the engine nacelles of the new 787 and 747-8 aircraft.
“The ecoDemonstrator programmes are all about turning our commitment on the environment into action,” said Jeanne Yu, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Director of Environmental Performance, at last week’s Farnborough Air Show. “Demonstrations create focus for aviation and give us a platform for faster learning about new technologies in application. That helps us get them airplane-ready more rapidly.”
The suite of technologies to be tested comprises: • Adaptive wing trailing edges that can morph to accommodate a particular phase of flight, which reduces fuel consumption by making the wings more aerodynamically efficient and also reduces takeoff noise; • A variable area fan nozzle where the engine exhaust area can increase by up to 10% to accommodate different phases of flight, which also reduces fuel consumption and reduces takeoff noise; • Active engine vibration control that uses a series of actuators to cancel the vibrations from the engine, resulting in a more comfortable and quieter ride for passengers; • A regenerative hydrogen fuel cell to provide electricity for airplane systems, such as in galleys, as well as providing energy storage during periods of low electrical demand, thus reducing fuel consumption; and • Flight trajectory optimisation and information management that enables more fuel-efficient inflight rerouting around weather and other constraints.
Through its Continuous Lower Energy Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) programme, the FAA is providing funding towards the adaptive wing trailing edge testing and sharing in the flight test costs, and the agency will also take part in the 2013 programme. IHI and the Japanese government are similarly involved with the regenerative fuel cell testing.
In addition to these technologies, the aircraft will also be fitted with sustainable carpet tiles made of recycled materials.
Yu said the flight from Glasgow to Reno would bring all the technologies together to form a ‘perfect’ flight that would also incorporate the use of biofuels and single-engine taxiing.
American Airlines is loaning the new 737-800 to Boeing for three months, after which it will be returned to standard configuration and delivered later this year. David Campbell, Vice President of Safety, Security and Environmental, said it was critical for the airline to minimise the environmental impact associated with its operations.
“At American, we are committed to investing in or participating in pilot programmes to test new equipment, develop alternative fuels and partner with like-minded companies such as Boeing to support promising developments that help reduce our carbon footprint. The ecoDemonstrator is a critical milestone in helping to advance technologies that can help us fly more sustainably with future airplanes.”
Campbell said American’s Fuel Smart programme had resulted in savings of 700 million gallons of jet fuel since 2005, representing around 6.4 million tonnes of CO2, and the new 737-800s were 35% more fuel efficient than the MD-80s they were replacing.
Boeing’s former 787 chief pilot Mike Carriker said Glasgow, Montana, had been chosen for the flight testing as it had 300 microphones in place to carry out noise testing. He added that the 2013 programme would test technologies on the 787 and there were plans to test advanced wing concepts in 2014 or 2015.