Boeing is to use an American Airlines 737-800 to validate five highly-advanced technologies that could lead to the development of cleaner, quieter commercial aircraft.
The 737-800, known as the ecoDemonstrator, is being fitted with variable fan nozzles, adaptive trailing edges, active engine vibration control and a regenerative fuel cell. New software is also being installed on the aircraft to enable it to follow a more efficient flight trajectory.
Speaking at the Farnborough Air Show, Jeanne Yu, Boeing's director of environmental performance for commercial airplanes, said: “The goal of the ecoDemonstrator programme is to take action and accelerate technology for fuel efficient, quieter, cleaner and more advanced sustainable material solutions for the future.
“Demonstrations create focus for aviation and give us a platform for faster learning about new technologies in application. That helps us get them airplane-ready more rapidly.”
Each technology being fitted on the aircraft for testing has the goal of reducing fuel consumption, lowering noise and testing the performance of new materials.
The variable area fan nozzle has the potential to reduce fan noise on takeoff and landing and to improve fuel consumption. The adaptive trailing edge, meanwhile, could provide an adjustable wing surface to improve airflow. This could improve fuel consumption and reduce airframe noise on takeoff and landing, said Boeing.
Active engine vibration control could save fuel by allowing lower engine speeds. Actuators attached to the engine mounts apply vibration-cancelling forces to reduce vibration and noise in the cabin.
The regenerative fuel cell, meanwhile, will be used to convert hydrogen and oxygen gas to electricity and water. This would act as a source of clean energy and storage.
The flight trajectory optimisation software integrates mobile devices so that the aircraft could fly more fuel-efficient routes.
Boeing is currently fitting the American Airlines 737 with the five technologies, with flight tests taking place in the next six months.
Looking further ahead, Boeing said it was likely to install additional ecoDemonstrator technologies on a 787 testbed. It said it was looking at radical advanced wing concepts and ceramic matrix composites for engines that could have noise attenuation built-in.