2018 ecoDemonstrator to begin flight testing

FedEx 777 test bed will gather environmental performance, safety data

March 02, 2018 in Our Environment

It’s unusual to see a 777 rolling out of a hangar at Boeing Field in Seattle. The widebody airplanes are built farther north and roll out to Paine Field in Everett, Wash.

But this freighter is a unique airplane.

The FedEx-owned 777 Freighter is the 2018 ecoDemonstrator. Delivered in October, it returned to the Puget Sound area in January after FedEx operated it in revenue service during the holidays. The airplane will begin its flight-test program next week, continuing through April.

The ecoDemonstrator program, now in its fifth iteration, serves as a series of flying test beds designed to improve the environmental performance and safety of future airplanes.

Program goals focus on harvesting new technologies and accelerating development of those innovations to get them ready more quickly to use on future airplanes.

Flight testing will gather data on 35 separate technologies. They range from clear air-turbulence detection to ground-collision avoidance and using 100 percent biofuel to reduce emissions and burn more efficiently.

To kick off the flight-test season, Boeing Field hosted an Innovation Expo on Feb. 22. The Expo hosted executives from around Boeing as well as science, technology, engineering and math students from various universities to see the innovative work the company is doing.

“I was so excited to see the technologies on this airplane,” said Victor Chacoa, a sophomore at Western Washington University. “It’s great to see the way they are adapting existing technology and applying it to airplanes. This was a great opportunity for me to be part of this as a student.”

Some of the other 35 technologies being tested include a compact thrust reverser developed by Boeing designed to save fuel, flight-deck improvements that can help make operations in and out of busy airports more efficient and prototype airplane parts using cutting-edge manufacturing techniques that reduce material waste.

After flight testing is completed at the end of April, the airplane will be refurbished and returned to FedEx in June.

Bret Jensen and Jordan Longacre