INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY

ecoDemonstrator Program Testing Quieter, Cleaner Flights with Etihad

An Etihad Airways 787-10 Dreamliner decked out with special equipment that can enhance safety and reduce CO2 emissions and noise has commenced flight testing this week for Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program.

A series of flights will gather the most detailed information to date about aircraft acoustics from some 1,200 microphones attached to the outside of the 787 and positioned on the ground. The collaboration between NASA and Boeing will improve the agency’s aircraft noise prediction capabilities, advance ways for pilots to reduce noise and inform future quiet aircraft designs.

“At NASA, we’ve been researching the individual airplane noise sources, their interactions with the airframe and how they combine to the total aircraft noise,” NASA technical lead Dr. Russell Thomas said. “This unique, carefully designed flight test provides the environment where all these effects are measured, which will be key to advancing our ability to design lower-noise aircraft.”

Mohammad Al Bulooki, Etihad Aviation Group Chief Operating Officer, said: “Etihad participating in this year’s ecoDemonstrator program builds on our core innovation and sustainability tenets while supporting the research and development of our partners to bring innovation from the laboratory to a real world testing environment. 

“By choosing to take part in this program we are proud to work with the likes of Boeing, NASA and Safran to test cutting-edge technologies and explore “blue sky” opportunities to improve airspace efficiency, reduce fuel use, lower noise for the community and cut CO2 emissions. 

“Sustainability remains a priority for Etihad in spite of the current Covid19 crisis and this is just one initiative we’ve taken since the start of the pandemic to continue our drive for sustainable aviation. As far as Etihad is concerned, environmental sustainability shouldn’t be an option or fair-weather project to be shelved when it’s not convenient against other challenges.”

Most community complaints about aircraft noise stem from flights approaching airports, according to industry figures. About one-quarter of the noise is created by the landing gear. Another project will test landing gear modified to be quieter by Safran Landing Systems.

“Our collaboration with NASA and Safran is key to accelerating innovation and furthering the ecoDemonstrator’s mission to improve the sustainability of air travel,” Rae Lutters, ecoDemonstrator program chief engineer, said. “We’re eager to see a year’s worth of planning come to life when we begin testing.”

Two flights are being conducted during which pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operations center simultaneously share digital information and use a NASA system called tailored arrival management. These tools enhance safety by reducing workload and radio frequency congestion, optimize routing efficiency to lower fuel use, emissions and noise, and support the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System.

As part of Boeing’s Confident Travel Initiative to address COVID-19, a handheld ultraviolet light wand will be tested to determine its effectiveness in disinfecting flight decks and cabins.

All scheduled test flights are being flown on a blend of up to 50% sustainable fuel, which includes the largest volumes of 50% blend biofuel commercially produced. Flight testing at Boeing’s facility in Glasgow, Mont., is expected to last about 10 days before the aircraft is delivered to Etihad in late September.

This is the latest program under Etihad’s industry-leading strategic partnership with Boeing, focusing on innovating real-world solutions to the key sustainability challenges facing the aviation industry.  

This is the first time the ecoDemonstrator program is using a Boeing 787-10 since flight testing began in 2012.

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