Flying eco lab could make planes more fuel efficient

Instead of coach seats, racks of computers help engineers test five major technologies. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
Don't judge a plane by it's cover. The ecoDemonstrator has reconfigured an American Airlines 737 for the testing. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
Racks of computers like this one fill the main cabin of the Boeing 737. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON – It looks like a normal jet from the outside, but on the inside this Boeing 737 is actually a flying test lab aimed at a greener future.

The aircraft, which landed at Reagan National Airport Tuesday, is called the ecoDemonstrator.

Rows of computer racks inside the plane help researchers test technologies that could make flying more fuel efficient and less noisy, eTurboNews reports.

“The technologies on board this airplane are very focused on enabling us to reduce fuel burn,” says Michael Huerta, acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration. “By reducing fuel burn, we reduce emissions. We reduce noise.”

For engineers, it’s about testing new technologies. But for communities around airports, it’s about showing off a future that could mean quieter neighborhoods and cleaner skies.

“What we really are very focused on is how do we make it more efficient, how do we make it safer, how do we improve our environmental footprint,” says Huerta.

The lab is even testing recyclable carpet tiles, and is part of an ongoing effort by Boeing to test new technologies and materials. The aviation company plans to launch a new ecoDemonstrator every year.

WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report. Follow Andrew and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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