LOS ANGELES—Boeing conducted the initial functional-check flight and handling-qualities test sortie for its newly completed 757 ecoDemonstrator test aircraft on March 17.

The aircraft flew from Seattle’s Boeing Field—where it has been undergoing modifications for several months—and will be used primarily to evaluate new wing and tail technologies aimed at reducing drag and improving operational efficiency. Developed in collaboration with NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project and with European-based airline group TUI which is Boeing’s customer-partner on the project, the 757 will test two design technologies for the wing leading edge and an active flow control feature in the vertical tail.

The wing tests will focus on different means of protecting the leading edges from insect strikes, residue from which severely affects the ability of a wing to maintain low-drag laminar flow. 

The active-flow tests will evaluate the ability of air jets mounted on one side of the tail to increase rudder effectiveness, which would allow the vertical tails of future airliners to be made significantly smaller and therefore have lower weight and drag than those of today.

Editor's note: TUI's relationship to the project has been clarified above.