Boeing Unveils 777-200ER 2022 EcoDemonstrator

The aircraft marks the first use of a 777-200ER variant in the ecoDemonstrator program.
Credit: Boeing

SEATTLE—Boeing is modifying a 777-200ER into a testbed for 30 new technologies in the latest campaign of the company’s 10-year-long ecoDemonstrator evaluation program.

The former Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand-operated 777 is the ninth aircraft to be used for the ecoDemonstrator initiative, which began in 2012. Unlike previous campaigns in which aircraft were used in the role for a relatively short period of several months, Boeing will use the 777 as a technology testbed for the next three years.

The aircraft marks the first use of a 777-200ER variant in the program and is only the second time that Boeing has acquired a dedicated test asset for the ecoDemonstrator campaign. Aside from 2019, when Boeing bought a used 777-200 for the program, every other ecoDemonstrator has been flown in partnership with an airline or—in the case of the 2016 campaign—with Embraer using a modified E170 regional airliner. Other test aircraft have included a 737-800, 737-9, 757-200, 777F, 787-8 and 787-10.

“The testing that we’re doing on this 2022 ecoDemonstrator centers primarily around safety and sustainability,” says Mike Sinnett, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice president and general manager of product development.

“Through this process we have matured a number of technologies and tested over 230 of them,” Sinnett continues. “The whole idea is to figure out which things we want to continue developing so that they show up on an airplane—which things we want to continue working on.”

Technologies to be evaluated over an initial six-month-long flight-test program on the 777-200ER include several all-new features as well as the latest evolutions of technologies tested on earlier campaigns. The latter includes an actively actuated set of vortex generators developed with NASA under the SMART (shape memory alloy reconfigurable technology) program, which builds on work performed during the 2019 test program.

Other technologies include a more advanced version of a head-mounted portable enhanced vision system (EVS)—a version of which was also initially tested in 2019. Developed by Universal Avionics, the SkyLens head-up display (HUD) system integrates aircraft data with imagery from a nose-mounted camera. The EVS system is designed to provide improved situational awareness to the flight crew, particularly in low-visibility conditions, while saving the weight and complexity associated with conventional cockpit-mounted HUDs.

Also to be tested on the 777-200ER is a “grey” water recycling system that collects and filters washbasin water for later use in flushing lavatories. Developed by Diehl Aviation, Boeing says the system has the potential to save more than 400 lb. of weight per flight.

The aircraft will also continue a long campaign of testing new fire extinguishing agents intended to replace Halon 1301, which is no longer being produced. Although non-Halon solutions have been found for cabins and lavatories, the industry is still forced to recycle Halon until effective replacements can be developed for the unique challenges of fire suppression at altitude in engines, APUs and the cargo hold. The latest efforts build on tests in 2019 of a new blend of bromotrifluoropropene (2-BTP) developed by Boeing and fire suppression specialists Meggitt which showed promise for use in cargo holds.

Tests of an Alaska 737-9 in 2021 evaluated a Meggitt-developed agent dubbed CF3i (iodotrifluoromethane) for extinguishing engine bay fires. In 2022 these tests will focus on the discharge performance of Meggitt’s 2-BTP agent—dubbed Verdagent—for the cargo compartment.

The program will also test several technologies aimed at improving operational efficiency including a system developed using Jeppesen airport maps that will enable single-engine taxi operations. In partnership with Collins Aerospace, Boeing is also testing a new air chiller which uses an environmentally preferred refrigerant.

The aircraft will perform test flights predominantly using a 30:70 blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), as well as be used to evaluate other characteristics of various SAFs. “We’re going to continue with our sustainable fuel work and we will be looking not only at operating the airplane with a blend of sustainable fuel, but we’ll also be doing studies with NASA as part of an ongoing program to measure the emissions in the particulates,” Sinnett says. The work will inform research on contrail formation and the associated sensitivities connected with the use of different SAFs.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.