Boeing has unveiled a 777-200 as its latest ecoDemonstrator aircraft, which will serve as a flying test bed for 50 projects in 2019.
The 777-200 is the sixth aircraft to be part of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program, which examines ways to improve safety and efficiency as well as to enhance the flying experience for crew and passengers.
“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,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of product strategy and future airplane development said Mike Sinnett said in a statement on Monday (US time).
Boeing has previously used five aircraft in the testing program, which began in 2011 in a partnership with American Airlines and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Since then, the program has had many participants including NASA, along with major airlines, jet engine manufacturers, and others involved in aviation technology.
Together, these five planes have trialled 112 separate technologies, Boeing said. Of those, more than one third have moved on to implementation, either by Boeing or program partners, with nearly one half still being developed.
Technology flowing from the program and currently in use included iPad apps giving pilots real-time data to help them cut fuel use and emissions; custom information to reduce noise for communities under approach paths; and a camera system that will help pilots on the 777X to avoid ground obstacles.
Technologies to be tested on the 2019 ecoDemonstrator program included information sharing between air traffic control, the flight deck and airline operations to optimise routing efficiency and safety, and an electronic flight bag application to give pilots rerouting information subject to weather conditions.
The test bed will also look at connected cabin technologies, which can monitor and automatically adjust cabin conditions including temperature and humidity, and cameras allowing passengers with views outside the plane.
Boeing said that more than a dozen industry partners were collaborating with the ecoDemonstrator program. The partners include a consortium which is developing “iCabin”’, a connectivity standard for networked cabins.
Flights on the new 777 test bed will begin in the northern autumn. They will include a flight to Frankfurt Airport, where the ecoDemonstrator’s goals will be presented to government officials, industry representatives and STEM students, Boeing said.
The previous ecoDemonstrator aircraft, a FedEx 777 Freighter, was used to test 37 emerging technologies. Those tests included the world’s first commercial flight fueled by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel, which was made from residual animal fats and plant oils.
A majority of the test flights by the new 777 will use sustainable aviation fuel to demonstrate the fuel’s viability, Boeing said.
VIDEO: A look at the 2018 ecoDemonstrator program which used a FedEx 777F from the Boeing YouTube channel.