US aircraft maker Boeing has just revealed its new 2022 ecoDemonstrator plane – a converted, 20-year-old 777-200ER that will be tasked with testing new technologies aimed at making air travel more sustainable and safer.
The ecoDemonstrator will reportedly go through a six-month series of tests both on the ground and in the sky, starting this summer.
Among the 30 or so technologies set for testing during the campaign include projects designed to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise, while incorporating more sustainable materials.
For instance, Boeing is collaborating with NASA to produce SMART vortex generators – small vertical vanes on the wing designed to improve aerodynamic efficiency during takeoff and landing.
Other projects include a system designed to conserve onboard greywater – water washed into the sink will be used to flush toilets, which also reduces the weight of the aircraft.
The plane will also be used to conduct tests on an “environmentally preferred” refrigerant, a new fire suppression agent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a heads-up enhanced vision system for pilots to improve operational efficiency.
Meanwhile, Boeing will continue its comprehensive study on the impact of sustainable aviation fuel toward the reduction of emissions.
The aircraft maker says the team plans to power the 777-200ER throughout its test period using a 30/70 blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and conventional jet fuel.
Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program kicked off a decade ago and takes technologies out of the lab to test them in an operational environment.
It has tested about 230 technologies in total “to help decarbonize aviation, improve operational efficiency and enhance safety and the passenger experience.”
The 2022 ecoDemonstrator plane, bearing the registration number N861BC, was first delivered to Singapore Airlines in 2002, then spent time flying with Air New Zealand and Suriname Airways over its 20-year lifespan.
It has been repainted with an Earth-themed livery, which Boeing says symbolizes a decade of testing to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise.
“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 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.”
Boeing’s statement says approximately a third of these tested technologies have already been incorporated into its products and services.
The aviation industry has long been pushing to create a more sustainable flying environment in the face of increasing criticisms.
Various reports by industry watchdogs and environmental groups estimate aviation generates 2-3% of global CO2 emissions.
At its annual meeting in October of 2021, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, announced a resolution in support of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
At this year’s IATA AGM, taking place June 19-21 in Doha, Qatar, a “Focus on Sustainability” session will address relevant industry issues including single use plastics, SAFs and the challenges of achieving sustainability – including net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Many airlines have already vowed to offer carbon-neutral flights and explore alternative fuels to reduce pollution.
Earlier this month, Spanish airline Air Nostrum announced it’s ordering 10 new hybrid airships. The Airlander 10 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2026. Made by UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles, the airships could cut emissions by 90%, according to the company.
Top image: The Boeing 2022 ecoDemonstrator. Credit: Boeing