Boeing Flies 737 EcoDemonstrator

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Boeing recently showed off its ecoDemonstrator project at a news conference in Washington, D.C. The airplane is a modified 737-800. "The ecoDemonstrator is a Boeing technology demonstrator that we're using to test cutting-edge technologies that will hopefully reduce our carbon footprint, lower our fuel burn, lower our emissions, and also reduce our community noise impact," said Erin Henderson, lead ground operations engineer for the project. The experiment "really helps us to understand what we need to do to bring this technology forward and make it work in an airplane," said Joe Breit, of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The technologies being tested on the aircraft include adaptive trailing edges -- small flap-like devices that provide additional lift at takeoff then move to a different position to reduce drag during cruise -- for better fuel burn, a variable area fan nozzle to reduce noise and improve efficiency, active engine vibration reduction, and a regenerative fuel-cell system to make electricity using hydrogen and oxygen. The flight tests, which are taking place in Glasgow, Mont., make it possible for engineers to gather "volumes of data" about the viability of each technology, Boeing said. The FAA has been supporting the tests, providing funding for the adaptive trailing edge on the airplane and covering some flight test costs. When testing is complete, the airplane will be returned to standard configuration and delivered to American Airlines later this year. Next year, Boeing will test a new set of technologies, using a wide-body aircraft.