Boeing’s Alaska Airlines 737 MAX ecoDemonstrator Starts Testing

The latest installment of the Boeing ecoDemonstrator seems to be in full swing as a modified Boeing 737 MAX darts around the skies over Seattle. Using an aircraft bound for Alaska Airlines after testing, Boeing is attempting to make flying safer and more sustainable by testing new initiatives.

Boeing 737 MAX, Alaska Airlines, ecoDemonstrator
The latest installment of the Boeing 737 ecoDemonstrator program is well underway. Photo: Preston Fiedler

The Boeing ecoDemonstrator program has been running for many years now. Typically, the American aerospace giant takes a pre-delivery plane and tests its modifications before delivering it to a customer. When the aircraft is then delivered to the customer, it is brand new as far as they are concerned, other than perhaps a slightly higher mileage on delivery. The last ecoDemonstrator used a Boeing 787-10 delivered to Etihad Airways following testing.

The 737 MAX’s time to shine

It’s now the turn of the Boeing 737 MAX to take part in the ecoDemonstrator project. Since July 1st, a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 9 bound for Alaska Airlines has flown around the northwest of the contiguous United States. Most recently, the aircraft completed a three-hour 40-minute with lots of turning and changes of altitude, and two low passes of Grant Country Airport in Moses Lake.

Boeing 737 MAX, Alaska Airlines, ecoDemonstrator
The aircraft’s most recent test flight took it east of Seattle. Photo:

As mentioned, the aircraft in question is a Boeing 737 MAX 9. According to data from, the aircraft completed its first flight in May 2019 while the MAX type was grounded. As a result, it is now 2.21 years old without having been delivered.

The aircraft will be delivered with 178 seats. 16 in business in a four abreast configuration, and 162 in the economy cabin in a six abreast format. While in the care of Boeing, the aircraft is registered as N60436, though it is expected to be reregistered as N979AK when delivered to Alaska Airlines.

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What is Boeing testing on the aircraft?

Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program aims to make flying safer and more sustainable by trialing enhancements to aircraft that could make it onto the next generation of aircraft. For example, the 737 MAX’s split wingtips came from the program.

Boeing 737 MAX, Alaska Airlines, ecoDemonstrator
A low-profile anti-collision light is being tested on the aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

This time around, several new technologies are being trialed. Firstly, the manufacturer is testing replacing conventional cabin wall insulation with composite waste material from the construction of the Boeing 777X wing. A modified engine nacelle designed to reduce noise is also being tested while the aircraft collects atmospheric readings for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Boeing 737 MAX, Alaska Airlines, ecoDemonstrator
The light is being tested in the place of a window. Photo: Getty Images

A new fire extinguishing agent is also being tested, hoping that it will replace Halon 1301, which is no longer being produced. It would be significantly less damaging to the ozone layer. The aircraft is also being used to test new, low-profile anticollision lights. Rather than modifying the fuselage to house the light, it has been installed in place of a window just in front of the overwing emergency exit.

Have you seen the Boeing ecoDemonstrator flying over the United States? Have you flown in an ex-ecoDemonstrator aircraft? Let us know what you think and why in the comments down below!