Boeing (NYSE: BA) unveiled this week the latest test platform for its long-running ecoDemonstrator environmental research initiative: a 777-200ER (extended range).
This marks the 10th year of the program, which boasts testing 230 projects on nine airplanes, including this year’s jet. Research on the various technologies has helped reduce carbon aircraft emissions, improve operational efficiency, and increase safety, according to Boeing.
The company says historically about a third of its tested technologies have eventually been developed into operational Boeing products and services.
Commercial airplanes and large business jets contribute to 10 percent of U.S. transportation emissions and 3 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas production, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Worldwide, aviation accounted for as much as 2.4 percent of total CO2 emissions in 2018.
However, by 2050 commercial aircraft emissions could triple, based on projected growth of passenger air travel and air freight, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, unless mitigation plans in work by aircraft manufacturers and operators are put into effect.
“Boeing is committed to support our customers and enable the commercial aviation industry to meet our shared commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Stan Deal, Boeing commercial airplanes president and CEO in a released statement. “The ecoDemonstrator program’s rigorous testing of new technologies further enhances the environmental performance of our products and services and is invaluable to continuously improving safety.”
The 777 has been painted with a special ecoDemonstrator livery, celebrating the program’s 10th anniversary.
Projects to be ground and flight tested this summer include:
- Working with NASA, the jet will test SMART vortex generators. These are small vertical vanes on the wing designed for better aerodynamic efficiency during takeoffs and landings.
- A system designed to conserve onboard water, reduce weight, and conserve fuel.
- 3D-printed airplane and engine components, including an auxiliary power unit (APU) exhaust duct support panel and an engine bracket, aimed at burning less fuel and reducing manufacturing waste.
- An environmentally friendly refrigerant and new fire suppression agent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- A heads-up display with enhanced vision system (EVS) to improve operational efficiency.
- Continued testing and analysis of SAF.
Previous ecoDemonstrator aircraft and Boeing’s partners include:
- 2012: an American Airlines Boeing 737-800
- 2014: a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- 2015: a TUI Boeing 757
- 2016: an Embraer E170
- 2018: a FedEx Boeing 777F freighter
- 2019 a Boeing 777-200
- 2020: an Etihad Airways Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner
- 2021: an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9
IATA and several major airlines have committed to achieving net- zero emissions in the coming decades, which helps drive programs by Boeing and other OEMs.
Last March, Boeing competitor, Airbus, flight tested an airliner with one engine using 100 percent SAF.
A month earlier, Airbus announced plans to develop a flight test demonstrator for a direct- combustion engine fueled by hydrogen in preparation for a zero-emission aircraft by 2035.