ecoDemonstrator takes off on flight testing

Fifty promising technology projects will be evaluated that could improve flying for airlines, passengers and the environment.

November 06, 2019 in Our Environment

The 2019 ecoDemonstrator program begins flight testing 50 promising technologies this week that could improve aviation for airlines, passengers and the environment — the most projects it has ever tested in one year, Boeing officials said.

One of the projects improves efficiency by sharing digital information between pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operations center to determine optimized flight paths while an airplane is flying.

This technology also enhances safety by reducing radio frequency congestion, and will be evaluated on a flight in mid-November from Seattle to Frankfurt, Germany. STEM students, government officials and others will tour the ecoDemonstrator 777 during a two-day event at Frankfurt Airport to learn about Boeing’s innovation efforts.

“We’re looking forward to inspiring the next generation and people in the aviation industry with the work we’re doing to advance the future of flying,” said Jeanne Yu, director of technology integration / ecoDemonstrator program.

A number of projects being tested this year could make flying better for passengers and improve efficiency and reliability for airlines, according to the company. These involve smart galleys and seats that can provide real-time information to help flight crews easily locate food and beverage items, for example, or troubleshoot a seat that won’t recline.

Analyzing this information over time would also enable airlines to better manage their catering inventory and predict when to fix parts such as seat actuators before they break.

Also being tested is Boeing’s Fresh Lav, which eliminates 99.9% of germs after every passenger use with an automated UV light. The lav also includes a floor made from recycled carbon fiber that absorbs moisture.

A key part of the ecoDemonstrator program is collaboration — both with Boeing Test & Evaluation and others within Boeing and with industry partners to jointly test technologies and share learnings that accelerate innovation. More than a dozen partners are participating in the 2019 program.

A collaboration with NASA will test vortex generators that change shape depending on temperature. These small fins on top of a wing, which are fixed in place, improve airflow during takeoff and landing but aren’t needed during cruise. The vortex generators being tested fold down against the wing in the colder air at higher altitudes to reduce drag and raise up in warmer air near the ground.

All of the test flights will fly on a blend of sustainable aviation fuel to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The ecoDemonstrator program made history in 2018 by conducting the world’s first flight on a commercial airliner using 100% sustainable fuel.

By Paul McElroy