Can you hear it now? ecoDemonstrator program testing quieter, cleaner flights

Collaboration with NASA and Safran on Etihad’s newest 787.

August 20, 2020 in Our Environment

A series of flights will gather the most detailed information to date about airplane acoustics from some 1,200 microphones attached to the outside of the 787 and positioned on the ground. The collaboration between NASA and Boeing will improve the agency’s airplane noise prediction capabilities, advance ways for pilots to reduce noise and inform future quiet aircraft designs.

“At NASA, we’ve been researching the individual airplane noise sources, their interactions with the airframe and how they combine to the total aircraft noise,” NASA technical lead Dr. Russell Thomas said. “This unique, carefully designed flight test provides the environment where all these effects are measured, which will be key to advancing our ability to design lower-noise aircraft.”

Most community complaints about airplane noise stem from flights approaching airports, according to industry figures. About one-quarter of the noise is created by the landing gear. Another project will test landing gear modified to be quieter by Safran Landing Systems.

Over 200 microphones attached to the outside of the 2020 ecoDemonstrator 787 and nearly 1,000 positioned on the ground will gather the most detailed airplane acoustics information to date.

Liz Wolter

“Our collaboration with NASA and Safran is key to accelerating innovation and furthering the ecoDemonstrator’s mission to improve the sustainability of air travel,” ecoDemonstrator Program Chief Engineer Rae Lutters said. “We’re eager to see a year’s worth of planning come to life when we begin testing.”

Two flights are being conducted during which pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operations center simultaneously share digital information and use a NASA system called tailored arrival management. These tools enhance safety by reducing workload and radio frequency congestion, optimize routing efficiency to lower fuel use, emissions and noise, and support the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System.

As part of Boeing’s Confident Travel Initiative to address COVID-19, a handheld ultraviolet light wand will be tested to determine its effectiveness in disinfecting flight decks and cabins.

All scheduled test flights are being flown on a blend of up to 50% sustainable fuel, which significantly reduces aviation’s environmental footprint. Flight testing at Boeing’s facility in Glasgow, Mont., is expected to last about 10 days before the airplane is delivered to Etihad in late September.

This is the first time the ecoDemonstrator program is using a Boeing 787-10 since flight testing began in 2012. The partnership with Etihad expands a strategic sustainability alliance the two companies formed last November.

By Paul McElroy

Information from the flight tests will improve NASA’s airplane noise prediction capabilities, advance ways for pilots to reduce noise and inform future quiet aircraft designs.

Liz Wolter