Last updated: 03:30 PM ET, Tue August 09 2016

Rivals Come Together: Boeing and Embraer Testing Quieter, Greener Planes

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | August 09, 2016

Rivals Come Together: Boeing and Embraer Testing Quieter, Greener Planes

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

New airplane designs could make flying cleaner, quieter and greener in the next few decades. However, a new project by Boeing and Embraer could produce results much sooner. 

Boeing has been experimenting with ways to make its planes quieter, cheaper to operate and more eco-friendly with its ongoing ecoDemonstrator program. Boeing says that it has tested more than four dozen new technologies in some of its newer models, including next generation 787s and 737s. One of the latest efforts involved using a biofuel mix in a specially equipped 757. The goal of this particular test was to reduce emissions by as much as 80 percent. 

Boeing and Embraer testing new ideas in Brazil

Despite being Boeing's rival in the narrow-body plane market, Brazilian airplane manufacturer Embraer has actually taken part in ecoDemonstrator since 2012. The first product of this partnership, a modified Embraer E170, is being tested in Brazil this month. 

The E170 will be tested through August and September. The plane will use a Brazilian-produced mix of biofuel and standard jet kerosene. Boeing estimates that the mix will allow the plane to lower its emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to standard jet fuel. 

READ MORE: South African Airways to Utilize Tobacco-Powered Jets

Combining multiple technologies

The reason that the ecoDemonstrator program is so well respected is that it tests multiple technologies in the same plane. Though biofuel usually gets the most media coverage, it is the overall combination of features that makes these test planes so newsworthy. 

The E170 being tested this month has a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system, which uses lasers and state of the art sensors to measure air speed, outside temperature and angle of flight. This data is extremely accurate and can be used to increase efficiency in flight by allowing pilots to adjust speed and angle of attack. 

The plane is also coated with a special kind of paint that not only reduces ice buildup, but also repels dirt so that the need to wash the craft is greatly reduced. This will reduce water usage, and it will also help airlines save money on labor costs.  

A new wing being tested on the E170 will improve fuel efficiency. The wings have special slats that are meant to reduce noise during takeoff and landing. This is arguably the most important development as far as the industry in concerned. Noise near airports is a major problem, especially during expansion projects. Having to angle new runways away from residential areas can add tens of millions of dollars onto the cost of such expansions. 

Read More: Why More And More Airlines Are Going Green 

A close relationship between competitors

The Boeing-Embraer partnership actually goes beyond the ecoDemonstrator program. The collaboration was started after a deal was negotiated by business representatives from both the US and Brazil. The two manufacturers have worked on a runway safety system that commercial carriers can use to reduce the likelihood of planes skidding off the tarmac. 

Both companies are also involved in a Brazilian fuel research center in the aviation manufacturing hub of São José dos Campos, outside of Sao Paulo. Research occurs at the center and is also coordinated with universities throughout Brazil. 

The Embraer-Boeing tests in Brazil this month show that manufacturers are making major strides towards a cleaner, greener aviation industry by combining different technologies that are applicable right now rather than at some undetermined point in the future. 


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