Boeing takes new technologies out of the lab and into flight test

ecoDemonstrator program to evaluate 50 innovations to enhance safety, sustainability and passengers' experience.

July 12, 2019 in Our Environment

The flight test airplane for the 2019 ecoDemonstrator program is a Boeing 777-200 acquired from Air China.

Kevin Flynn

As part of its ongoing effort to accelerate aerospace innovation, Boeing will assess 50 technologies aimed at addressing real-world challenges for airlines and passengers on its ecoDemonstrator program this year, which launched in early July.

A Boeing-owned 777-200 that will serve as the program’s sixth flying test bed was recently pained in a distinctive livery in Everett, Wash. It will be used to evaluate promising technologies, many with the potential to improve operational efficiency and support future “smart cabin” amenities.

The program will be based out of Boeing Field, south of Seattle. A majority of the test flights will fly on sustainable aviation fuel to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and demonstrate the fuel’s viability.

“This is the latest addition to our ecoDemonstrator program, where we look at how crew and passengers can have a better experience and how technologies can make flying safer, more efficient and more enjoyable,” said Mike Sinnett, Commercial Airplanes vice president of Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development.

“Using the 777 flying test bed lets us learn faster and move forward on improvements much quicker and with greater fidelity in defining their value,” he added.

Among the technologies being tested:

  • Sharing digital information between air traffic control, the flight deck and an airline’s operations center to optimize routing efficiency and safety.
  • An electronic flight bag application that uses next-generation communications to automatically provide rerouting information to pilots when weather conditions warrant.
  • Connected cabin technologies that make galleys and lavatories smart, and monitor cabin conditions such as temperature and humidity to facilitate automatic adjustments.
  • Cameras to provide more passengers with a view outside the airplane.

A key part of the ecoDemonstrator program is collaboration with industry partners to jointly test technologies and share learnings that advance aviation. More than a dozen partners are participating in the 2019 program, including an industry consortium developing a connectivity standard for networked cabins of the future known as iCabin.

Flight tests will be conducted this fall. The flights will include a trip to Frankfurt Airport in Germany, where the ecoDemonstrator’s technology mission will be presented to government officials, industry representatives and STEM students to help inspire the next generation in aerospace leadership.

By Paul McElroy