Sustainability is becoming an increasingly key factor as companies in the aviation industry consider future developments. This is an area that Boeing has had its eye on for several years now, having created its ecoDemonstrator program in 2010. This scheme has seen it use different aircraft as testbeds for various sustainability-related technologies.
The early years
Boeing created the ecoDemonstrator program in 2010, and launched its first dedicated aircraft for the scheme two years later. This was an American Airlines Boeing 737-800. American loaned it to the planemaker to test various sustainability-related technologies. These included sustainable fuel, and winglets that went on to be used for the 737 MAX.
To begin with, the ecoDemonstrator program was a biannual affair. The second iteration occurred in 2014, when Boeing used one of its own 787s to partake in 35 environmentally-focused projects. These concerned aspects like noise pollution, fuel consumption, and even aircraft spacing. This plane bore the registration N7874.
2015 marked the launch of Boeing’s third ecoDemonstrator aircraft. This was a TUI-liveried 757-200 owned by Stifel. Boeing used the twin-engine narrowbody to investigate laminar flow, as well as coatings that improve aerodynamic efficiency by reducing insect residue.
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Not all Boeing aircraft
It is interesting to note that not all aircraft that Boeing has used in its ecoDemonstrator program have been manufactured by the US planemaker itself. Indeed, 2016 saw the company utilize an Embraer E170 in six projects that related to its sustainability scheme.
Aerodynamic efficiency was a feature once again, as the company trialed ‘ice-phobic’ paint on the regional jet in an attempt to reduce drag. Embraer’s Brazilian homeland also played a key role in the collaboration, with the country providing a sugarcane-based sustainable fuel. Boeing also looked to reduce the plane’s noise by using wing slat cove fillers.
More recent Boeing ecoDemonstrators
After using the Embraer E170 in 2016, Boeing took a year off before returning to the program in 2018 with a FedEx 777F. This was the most comprehensive iteration of the scheme to date, with 37 projects involved. However, it was overtaken the following year when Boeing used one of its own 777-200s to test 53 projects, including a self-disinfecting lavatory.
In 2020, Boeing teamed up with Abu Dhabi-based UAE flag carrier Etihad Airways to introduce a new ecoDemonstrator aircraft. The 787 was the subject of the program once again, although this time it was a stretched Etihad 787-10 nicknamed the ‘Greenliner.’ The companies worked with Safran Landing Systems to fit quieter landing gear, among other features.
That brings us on to 2021. This year, Boeing has partnered with Alaska Airlines to use one of its new 737 MAX 9 narrowbodies as its latest ecoDemonstrator aircraft. The partnership was revealed in June, and the testing began in August. Simple Flying is in Glasgow today for a look at the plane, so keep your eyes peeled for more ecoDemonstrator content!
What do you make of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program? Have you ever seen one of these aircraft for yourself? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!