Technologies on the ecoDemonstrator include fuel-saving flight trajectory methods and a regenerative fuel cell that uses surplus energy — produced when the plane is cruising, for example — to break down ionized water into water and oxygen, which are then stored and used to power the plane.
The prototype plane also features improvements to wing and engine efficiency, variable area fan nozzles and active engine vibration reduction.
American Airlines loaned Boeing the next-generation 737-800 in July to serve as the test bed for these technologies, intended to increase fuel efficiency and reduce airplane noise.
Boeing outfitted the ecoDemonstrator with the technologies and test equipment and then began flight testing in Glasgow, Mont. Boeing completed the testing this month, and will return the plant to standard configuration and deliver it to American later this year.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s CLEEN (Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise) program provided funding for wing improvements and some flight test costs.
The 2012 ecoDemonstrator is the first of several Boeing test platforms. The company plans to have one per year, with each airplane testing a new set of technologies. In 2013, a wide-bodied airplane will serve as the testbed, according to Boeing.
CLEEN is also participating in the 2013 program, providing cost-share funding for a ceramic matrix composite engine nozzle and its related flight test costs.
A year ago, Boeing delivered its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which the company says uses 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized planes, to All-Nippon Airways. This summer, however, a Boeing 787 experienced an engine failure during a pre-delivery taxi test in Charleston, S.C.
In July, Boeing and Virgin Australia finalized an order for 23 fuel-efficient 737 MAX airplanes with options for an additional four. The 737 MAX reduces fuel use by 13 percent over today’s most fuel-efficient single-aisle airplanes, according to Boeing. Earlier the same month, FedEx Express agreed to purchase 19 additional B767-300 aircraft, which are about 30 percent more fuel-efficient compared to the MD10s that they will replace.