Boeing expands its ecoDemonstrator flight-test programme


Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explorer 787 aircraft in flight

Boeing is expanding its ecoDemonstrator flight-test programme in a bid to boost innovation in sustainable aviation. The company plans to assess around 19 technologies on the Boeing 777 ecoDemonstrator aircraft that aim to optimise aircraft fuel efficiency and Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) capabilities.

Boeing’s testing programme will also include ‘Explorer’ platforms, which will focus on the short-term testing of a specific technology for each flight. The first Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explorer, a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, will undergo an operational efficiency assessment in June 2023.

“Our initial Explorer testing in partnership with aviation stakeholders in four countries is a great example of how we can work together to optimise operational efficiency and reduce emissions,” said Chris Raymond, chief sustainability officer, Boeing.

The first ecoDemonstrator Explorer will conduct flight tests on missions from Seattle to Tokyo, Singapore and Bangkok. The aim is to show how coordinating navigation across global airspace jurisdictions can improve operational efficiency, reducing fuel use and emissions by up to 10%. The aircraft will fly on the highest available blend of SAF at each location.

Boeing and air navigation service providers in the US, Japan, Singapore and Thailand will sequence the aircraft’s routes to achieve the optimal flight path across multiple regions, factoring in conditions such as weather, air traffic and airspace closures.

The industry will need continued fleet renewal, efficiency gains, renewable energy carriers, such as sustainable aviation fuel, and advanced technology to meet the civil aviation industry’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2050,” said Raymond.

The test aircraft will have wall panels in the cargo hold made from 40% recycled carbon fibre and 60% resin made from a bio-based feedstock. It will also have a fibre optic fuel quantity sensor compatible with 100% SAF.

Stan Deal, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes said: “We continue to invest in innovation that reduces fuel use, emissions and noise on our products and to partner with governments and industry to make progress on sustainability during each phase of flight.”

Since its initial flights in 2012, the ecoDemonstrator programme has tested around 250 technologies  to find solutions that decarbonise aviation, improve operational efficiency and enhance safety. Around a third of tested technologies have progressed onto Boeing’s products and services.

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