Boeing is about to start testing new technologies on its tenth ecoDemonstrator aircraft. The 20-year-old 777-200ER is the follow-on to the MAX 9 that has flown last year. It includes thirty technologies, most of them related to sustainability. What’s new on a 20-year-old Boeing as the latest ecoDemonstrator?
The -200ER registered N861BC first flew with Singapore Airlines from November 2002 until 2018, then briefly with Air New Zealand in 2018, and with Surinam Airlines between December 2019 and February 2021. It left storage at Victorville in May before joining the ecoDemonstrator program.
So what’s new on a 20-year-old aircraft that needs testing in the next six months? First of all, a 30/70 percent blend of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), is the highest mix that is officially approved. That isn’t that spectacular, as the 777F ecoDemonstrator in FedEx colors already flew on 100-percent SAF in 2018. The latest program will look in closer detail at the effects of SAF on aircraft emissions.
In the cockpit, there is an enhanced vision camera system with head-up display screens from Universal Avionics that should improve operational efficiency. Other innovations that will improve situational awareness during taxiing at airports are also tested.
On the wings, the 777 has small SMART vortex generators developed together with NASA that should improve aerodynamic efficiency during take-offs and landings. Which should translate into a lower fuel burn. The aircraft and engines also have various 3D-printed parts that need testing before they can be certified, like an exhaust duct support panel on the APU and an engine bracket.
Inside the cabin is a lavatory that re-uses the water from the sink to flush it. The Diehl lavatory is expected to save some 181 kilograms of water that needs to go on the aircraft, thereby again reducing weight but also re-using the water. The galleys have a new kind of refrigerant that is more environmentally friendly than current versions. In the cargo bays, a new fire suppression system is tested that no longer uses Halon 1301, which has a negative impact on ozone.
In the past ten years, Boeing has tested some 230 technologies on its ecoDemonstrators. Many of them have found applications in later models, like the winglets on the MAX, touch-screen displays on the 777X, different materials, and solutions that help to reduce noise coming from the aircraft. Previous ecoDemonstrators are the American Airlines 737-800 (2012), the 787-8 Dreamliner (2014), a TUI 757 (2015), an Embraer E170 (2016), the FedEx 777 Freighter (2018), the 777-200 (2019), the Etihad Airways 787-10 (2020), and the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 (2021).
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.