Boeing's 2020 ecoDemonstrator test programme ends with transcontinental flight using 50% blended SAF
Fri 25 Sept 2020 – As part of Boeing’s 2020 ecoDemonstrator programme, a final test flight of an Etihad Airways 787-10 from Seattle to Boeing’s manufacturing site in South Carolina used 50,000 gallons of a 50/50 blend – the maximum blend permitted for commercial aviation – of sustainable and traditional jet fuel. The sustainable fuel, which has been used in lower blends on other test flights conducted during the programme, was produced from inedible agricultural wastes by World Energy and supplied by EPIC Fuels. Boeing and Etihad have had a longstanding collaboration on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and were founding partners on a pilot project taking place at Khalifa University near Abu Dhabi to produce jet fuel from saltwater-tolerant plants. Khalifa University has recently hosted a series of webinars focusing on SAF in the UAE.
Mohammad Al Bulooki, Etihad Aviation Group’s COO, said the ecoDemonstrator flight was a “monumental step forward for the sector to prove the viability of producing a 50/50 blend of SAF at a high volume.”
In January, Etihad took delivery of a 787-10 using a fuel mix comprising 30% SAF produced by World Energy. For more than a decade, World Energy and EPIC have produced and supplied SAF to Boeing for flight testing and the aircraft manufacturer offers airlines the option of using SAF for their delivery flights, the first of these being an Etihad 777-300ER in 2012.
“Sustainable aviation fuels are proven and work in airplanes flying today and those that will fly tomorrow, but there’s a very limited supply,” said Sheila Remes, Boeing’s VP Strategy. “World Energy is making commercial-scale volumes of sustainable fuel at competitive prices, leveraging government low-carbon incentives to accelerate production and use in an industry that relies on liquid fuels.”
Created in 2010, the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) is piloting a unique desert ecosystem to produce SAF from plants that grow in the desert and are irrigated by coastal seawater. Etihad used the initial batch of fuel in January 2019 on a passenger flight from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam.
The series of eight SAFI-UAE webinars (available for viewing here) hosted by Khalifa University and moderated by Dr Alejandro Rios, Director of SBRC, concludes on September 30 with a focus on establishing a SAF industry in the UAE through a work programme and stakeholder collaboration.
Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator programme takes promising technologies out of the lab and tests them in the air to accelerate innovation. This year’s programme evaluated four projects to reduce emissions and noise and enhance the safety and health of passengers and crew. It included a collaboration with Safran over the noise caused by airflow over the landing gear of aircraft. The partners have designed fairings around the landing gear to smooth out the turbulence to reduce noise levels by what Boeing describes as a significant amount.
Another project with NASA involved the investigation of how sound interacts with aircraft using special onboard acoustic sensors that detect small variations of sound while the aircraft is flying. The sound is then measured both on the aircraft and also on the ground using a thousand microphones in special patterns.
“This test is going to give us the best information on this aspect of aircraft noise that we’ve been able to achieve in flight,” said Russell Thomas, a senior research engineer at NASA Langley Research Center. “Out of that, we will be able to create what we think is a new avenue of noise reduction technologies and approaches. It really allows us to go one step further in developing new ideas and concepts for future aircraft that will be even quieter for the communities.”