Pontifications: Boeing works on green aviation initiatives

By Scott Hamilton

Oct. 5, 2020, © Leeham News: Even as Boeing works its way through the final days of the 737 MAX grounding and how to survive the COVID-19 crisis, it’s working on greener aviation.

LNA already reported how Boeing views the prospects of hydrogen, hybrid and electric power. Another article discusses Boeing’s work in disinfecting airplanes to combat COVID.

Here are some other areas Boeing is working on.

Reducing noise

Boeing, using an Etihad Airways 787-10, installed a new-design landing gear on the plane. Designed by Safran, the gear has new airfoil shakes fairings that, in tests, significantly reduce noise on take-off and approach. Boeing declined to reveal how much it was reduced, as measured by decibels.

About 30% of the noise heard on landing is from extended landing gear.

“This is a concept that we’re working on with Safran to understand how we can make those landing gear quieter,” said Doug Christensen, a program leader on the Boeing ecoDemonstrator Program.

“We flew this configuration over the microphone array 23 passes and measured that data both on and off so we could find the difference. We’ll be evaluating that data.”

Christensen said that comments from the people that were on the ground during the testing said there was a noticeable noise reduction heard from the airplane.

“We haven’t quantified it yet,” he said. “They’re still looking at the data. Every one of those passes over the microphone produced 12 gigabytes of data.”

More efficient flying

Boeing also is creating new technology that allows airlines to operate our airplanes more efficiently in and around the airspace. This would allow reduced fuel burn. New flight patterns could also reduce noise around airports.

“It provides an environment for the pilots that’s safer because there’s less voice communications,” Christensen said.

During the next eight years after the first year of Boeing’s eco program, it continued to provide flight resources in the forms of the ecoDemonstrators. The 737 and 777 were previous demonstrator airliners.

Boeing partnered with airlines or government agencies and, for a time, with Embraer.

At the end of that, Boeing created successive windows of flight opportunity, targeting technologies to those successive windows.

For example, in 2006, Boeing leased a 777 to perform flight controls testing on future 787 flight controls. This validated through a real-life flight environment concepts of how an airplane should be flown.

In 2012, Boeing flew the first ecoDemonstrator program, which was a 737, in partnership with American Airlines. An example of a technology that flew in that program was the natural laminar flow winglet, which is now part of the MAX configuration.

Washing engines, carpets

Etihad is working with GE to do engine washing with a new foam. This new foam is bringing some benefits toward making the engines even more efficient.

In another example, the airline is working with carpet manufacturers for lightweight carpets and also what happens to the carpet after it’s been used and how is it disposed of.

26 Comments on “Pontifications: Boeing works on green aviation initiatives

  1. What is the progress on the Truss Braced Aircraft? Sounds like NASA is pushing and Boeing is doing some work as they are paid by NASA, hopefully some Money goes to GE, PWA, RR-Allison, Honeywell to do the preliminary design on its Engines and Collins/Hamilton Sundstrand for its 8-12 bladed UDF props.
    There should should be space available in Everett to build a number of test Aircrafts with full instrumentation to understand what happens if it does not behave like the computer models tells.

    • The last development on the truss braced aircraft was during the AIAA Scitech conference in January 2020. Several joint Boeing/NASA papers were presented, including this conceptual study on the ideal wing layout:


      You can expect more progress to be shown during next year conference.

    • Well, lack of quality can have a very beneficial environmental effect: after all, a grounded aircraft isn’t producing emissions, is it? 😉

      • Returning to the realm of fact, from the realm of snide remark and implied insult, Boeing has produced some of the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft flying today.

        Boeing has remained very competitive on those fronts and will continue to do so, no matter what is insinuated otherwise here.

        The EU/Airbus hydrogen initiative is commendable but has a very long way to go to reach production levels of reliability and sustainability. If that can be achieved, it will be a remarkable breakthrough, but it’s by no means assured at present. An equally good argument can be made for pursuing improvements in fossil fuel efficiency, leading perhaps to the closing of the carbon cycle.

        It’s notable that success of the hydrogen movement relies on very cheap and abundant renewable energy. But that cheap energy will also enable & drive carbon capture and closure technologies. It will also compete directly with hydrogen itself.

        So there will be competition between technologies, as is always true, and the outcome is not known at this point. The most likely outcome will be a balance of those technologies that best fit their applications, as is also true now.

        • “…Boeing has produced some of the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft flying today.”

          Returning to the realm of fact, from the realm of myopic fantasy:

          – One of those aircraft families (the MAX) has been grounded for the past 18 months, after needlessly killing 346 people. In terms of flights completed, it’s currently the second most lethal aircraft in modern history, after Concorde.

          – The other aircraft family (Dreamliner) has already been subject to a global grounding due to fires, and was recently subject to a limited grounding due to shoddy manufacturing.

          So, Leon’s comment on quality remains perfectly valid.
          And my comment is also factually correct…even if it is painful to Boeing fans.

          • Bryce, my statements are true and I stand by them. Your statements are your opinions which have been proven false by the judgement and evaluation of the agencies that are responsible for establishing the facts.

            That includes FAA. NTSB, EASA, Canada, etc. All have reviewed and tested the MAX and will soon declare it complaint and safe. Except for 8 individual aircraft, the 787 is not grounded, that is the fact and truth.

            Further the intentions of your remarks are very clear. You constantly seek to deride Boeing, and those who support Boeing. and that has been a large fraction of your commentary here.

            The derision is not necessary for effective criticism, and i’s presence reveals your true motives. It’s practiced by only a few people here, who have a similar agenda.

            But those activities will not be unopposed. When you misrepresent the truth, or rely on derision as all cowards and bullies do, you’ll be called out on it, and the truth will be put forward.

            You’ll be proven to be incorrect on the MAX as in other things. That won’t slow you down at all, because truth is not your agenda, but it will be pointed out, every single time.

          • It was 347 people died in the 2 Boeing 737 Max crashes everybody seems to forget the diver who died in Indonesia.

        • “”Boeing has produced some of the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft flying today””

          haha that didn’t take long for Rob to share his prayer.
          Always good to let Boeing speak the truth:

          “Boeing revises “obsolete” performance assumptions
          Boeing’s web site listed seat-counts and range specifications for nearly all models have changed. Boeing has simply updated a set of generic weight and configuration assumptions used to calculate aircraft range. “There’s no performance change to the actual airplane. This is just changing our generic philosophy to more closely represent what our customers are using,” says Jim Haas, Boeing marketing director. Boeing finally acknowledges what most airline customers, industry analysts and rivals already knew. Boeing‘s standard to calculate performance for generic marketing purposes has been “obsolete” for a long time. “The reason we kept it so long is we look at the actual seat counts [marketing brochures] were showing they were pretty representative of the actual seats airlines were putting in airplanes,” Haas says. “We really wanted a set of generic ground rules that better reflected what airplanes used in operation,” says Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing.
          Most airlines provide performance data usually parrot Boeing’s marketing. An exception is Lufthansa, which lists range figures for each aircraft using own ground rules.
          Boeing previously listed the latest version of the venerable 747 series with a 467-passenger cabin and a range of 7,790nm.
          But Boeing’s updated internal assumptions reduced the cabin to 410 passengers and a range of 7,730nm. That moves Boeing’s
          assumptions closer to the specifications listed on Lufthansa’s web site, but there is still a wide gap between them.
          Lufthansa lists the 747-8I with a 364-seat cabin and a range of 7,073nm.”

          Never forget this. Boeing doesn’t measure the specs, they just use assumptions!!!
          They described the 747-8I with 467 pax and 7790nm,
          then updated it to 410 pax and 7730nm, at a time
          when Lufthansa described it with 364 pax and 7073nm.

          How this worked out:
          In September 2005 Boeing’s firm configuration for the 787-8 was 95.5t OEW, 248 pax, 7650-8000nm. With these assumtions Boeing recorded 820 orders for the 787 till the end of 2007.
          It was a scam. Most of all 787 were ordered on the grounds of a scam. Boeing called this scam dreamliner.

          • Leon, that article references the updates Boeing made to reflect the heavier weights now encountered by most operators, for the same seating. More weight means reduced range.

            The numbers had not been updated since the 1990’s. Passengers are now heavier, luggage allowances are greater, seats are stronger and heavier, and first class has given way to business class with far heavier furnishings.

            This was only for marketing purposes. Operators all know their own takeoff weights and calculate their own range accordingly. Some exceed the marketing numbers and some fall short, depending on configuration and load. But nothing about the aircraft or its specs have changed.

          • Thats right , the max range is PR number. Boeing is a business to business enterprise. They arent selling airliners to Joesephine Public and the few corporate jets to individuals would be using a broker. Why the same plane can have different numbers isnt a real concern for the average person.
            Each airline would know what the routes are that they need to fly and have their own experts to evaluate the Boeing proposals which would be tailored to that airline and the likely order size.
            From following the stories on LNR , a general picture is provided for both the main manufacturers and what the headlines numbers mean and why Airbus and Boeing use different approaches…getting a subscription would give a deeper dive into specific models and the main markets those models are used for.

          • “”the max range is PR number””

            For Boeing it is PR as Boeing itself said. But some numbers are just not possible because of restrictions.

            “”a general picture … getting a subscription would give a deeper dive””

            Some LNA numbers which are hidden from the public were leaking through and these numbers didn’t satisfy me because they can’t be used as comparables.
            For example, for the 251t A330-900 LNA provided 287 pax and 7200nm. That’s just the same number Airbus provides but not really helpful and not comparable.
            Since most can’t test fly and measure the specs, most rely on specs the manufacturers offer, LNA too.

            If someone mentions “most fuel-efficient” and “Boeing” in the same line it amuses me, because “most fuel-efficient” means quality and we all know that Boeing isn’t really interested in quality. (Boeing is not responsible for the fuel efficiency the engines provide, but how is it possible that a heavier A330neo is more fuel efficient or at least same fuel efficient as the 787.)
            Boeing is interested in cheap production and quality can’t be cheap.
            There is a place in the market for cheap low quality products, cattle carrier like Ryanair love them.

          • @Leon: In some articles we write, we refer to “advertised range” by the OEMs. We keep our proprietary analysis for our paid clients, but there is a standard formula by which we reduce the advertised range to useful range, taking into account winds, holding pattern and alternate requirements.

          • Leon, the facts on this are very clear. Your assertion regarding the marketing numbers was misleading and incorrect. The fact is that Boeing aircraft are competitive and comparable in terms of range and fuel efficiency. No amount of shade from you can alter that.

          • “”there is a standard formula by which we reduce the advertised range to useful range, taking into account winds, holding pattern and alternate requirements””

            Thanks Scott,

            it seems you simulate certain trips.
            When I compare performance I don’t even think about winds because it’s not important when looking for fuel burn per hour. I try to keep it pretty much simple.

          • “”The fact is that Boeing aircraft are competitive and comparable in terms of range and fuel efficiency””

            Tell us how competitive 787 is vs A350.
            I already have a laugh.
            Rob will throw the towel soon …

          • “”that article references the updates Boeing made to reflect the heavier weights now encountered by most operators, for the same seating. More weight means reduced range.””

            Rob means that only Boeing had this Boeingitis, not Embraer, not Airbus.
            Boeing should take some protein pills to be able to calculate instead of making Mari Jane assumptions.

          • Leon, you’re regurgitating the same incorrect points here, after you were corrected by 3 people. The facts are what they are, you can’t insult your way out of them.

  2. We should note that Boeings Green Initiatives are not new… 4 or 5ish years ago, Boeing had the EcoDemonstrator program using a 757 as the workhorse for the application of ideas, coatings and procedures…… Ultimately the program ended with the scrapping of the aircraft and the study of improved disassembly and recycling processes of existing generation aircraft to learn how to do it better…… Boeings involvement in green news isn’t new, its been a long term corporate direction and also extends inside the manufacturing process with changes minimising waste, excessive packaging and Hazmat exposure. One only needs to look at the Composite Assembly processes, sealing and paint to see huge gains….. The elimination of the Phosphoric Acid Anodize process and move to chrome free primer paint were huge benefits to the environment. I wish it recieved more notice than it has…….

  3. While working on the margins of improvement is a good thing to do.

    I find it odd that you use a leased 777 to substitute for a 787. How about you keep an early 787 for tests?

    But the major question is where are the two new aircraft Boeing needs to have to compete?

    The answer always seems to have been, oh, that costs real money, no more moon shots (read that as, we can’t manage anything so we don’t want to look stupid and drive that nail into our coffin)

    Hmmm, how about solid management coming out with product that is the future? Nah.

    • TW, the 787 control hardware was developed on a 757 testbed, before the first 787 flew. It was moved to the 777 for further software evaluation and testing, because it was more representative airframe, and also because there were plans to implement elements of it on future versions of the 777. All of this documented in reporting at the time.

      As Scott says, Boeing will need to develop new aircraft, and that will be informed by the COVID impact, which will reshape the future of aviation in the short-term, possibly in the long term as well. Those aircraft need to have a market, and given the current circumstances, Boeing will be careful to be sure they will, as they move forward.

  4. Any news from the BWB front ? NASA studies through ERA project seemed to be showcasing some interesting benefits. What is actually wrong with BWB concepts ? Would love to get LNA insight on this. Thanks

    • LNA did an article on this in 2018. Echoed in other reporting at the time. The concept is good aerodynamically but it favors longer ranges to get the benefits. This why in the Airbus ZEROe trio, the BWB is the widebody design.

      In market studies, passengers did not react well to the changes in seating patterns. There are issues with evacuation distances and times. Also the airport gate configurations would need to be changed. Structurally it needs a much bigger wing box to get the same height for passengers as a tube design. Some regulations would need to be rewritten.

      Boeing is looking at it for military cargo, but not for passengers at this time. It’s not impossible, just would require a lot of changes in infrastructure and customer expectations.

    • Plus stretches, versions seem more complicated than a tube, accelerations for people sitting of center could be serious during rolling. And a wide pressured body becomes heavy, plus..

      Enough complications for OE’s to become risk averse and keep it to scale / tunnel models and graphics to convince politicians / the public big advancements are just around the corner, justifying public investment / confidence.

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