Hollie makes 5: Fifth ecoDemonstrator airplane completes flight tests

An 11-year-old girl's 'airplane' gathers info on nearly 40 technologies aimed at improving sustainable air travel.

May 11, 2018 in Our Environment

The 2018 ecoDemonstrator program completed flight tests recently, gathering information on nearly 40 emerging technologies and bringing the magic of flight a little closer to an 11-year-old girl.

Now in its eighth year, the program enables Boeing to quickly assess the viability of technologies aimed at enhancing the safety, operational efficiency and environmental performance of commercial aviation.

“Access to a flight test airplane off the critical path of a certification program allows engineers to learn by doing to accelerate their technologies to Boeing products, production systems and services,” said Jennifer-Ellen Holder, manager of ecoDemonstrator test platforms.

Four previous ecoDemonstrator airplanes tested some 75 technologies, starting in 2012. About one-third of the technologies transitioned to production programs or in-service solutions for customers. New natural laminar flow winglets that improved fuel efficiency on the first year’s airplane, for example, are now standard equipment on the 737 MAX.

Another third advanced in technology readiness and are still in work. The remainder were discontinued after learning was accomplished.

This year’s airplane, a FedEx Express 777 Freighter, is graced with the name of Hollie Watson. The 11-year-old’s father, Larry, is a planning engineer at the airline. Hollie was able to tour her airplane during an Earth Day event at the shipper’s World Headquarters in Memphis in late April with the FedEx and ecoDemonstrator teams and some 500 FedEx employees.

“It’s a real natural relationship for us to be working with FedEx,” said Jeanne Yu, director of technology integration and the ecoDemonstrator program. “FedEx is all about connecting and possibility and we are, too. This allows us to be pioneers together in technology innovation.”

By Paul McElroy