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Boeing/NASA’s Sustainability Demonstrator Program Gets Support from US Airlines

Boeing and NASA’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Project will be supported by US carriers which will contribute operational and airport compatibility feedback. NASA and Boeing introduce the X-66A livery.

Boeing and NASA to Partner with US Airlines for Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) Project 

Boeing [NYSE: BA] and NASA are joining forces with major U.S. airlines in order to provide guidance to the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project and the development of the X-66A research aircraft. This collaboration is part of a wider sustainability coalition, with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines being key contributors. 

These airlines will be offering their insights on a range of pertinent issues, including operational efficiencies, maintenance, handling characteristics, and airport compatibility. This collaboration is aimed at advancing the sustainable development of aviation technology.

NASA and Boeing also unveiled the new X-66A livery today at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

“Hearing directly from the operators during all phases of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project will help us understand exact requirements and tradeoffs,” said Todd Citron, Boeing’s chief technology officer. “The airlines’ feedback will significantly contribute to the X-66A project learnings while furthering aviation sustainability.”

Embarking on a path towards net-zero aviation greenhouse gas emissions, NASA has launched its first X-plane, the X-66A. This trailblazing aircraft will explore the capabilities of the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) airframe configuration, a significant stride in aviation technology. The X-66A, a modified version of the MD-90 aircraft, will be brought to life at a state-of-the-art Boeing facility nestled in the heart of Palmdale, Calif.

By amalgamating anticipated advancements in propulsion systems, materials, and systems architecture, a single-aisle airplane boasting a TTBW configuration has the potential to drastically diminish fuel consumption and emissions. This could result in a reduction of up to 30% compared to the current domestic fleet of airplanes, demonstrating a significant leap toward sustainable aviation.

In their pursuit of sustainability, U.S. airlines are set to play a pivotal role in the groundbreaking project, offering invaluable feedback throughout its execution. Their insights will encompass various domains, including: 

  • Design: Airline participants will critically evaluate the sustainability quotient and airport compatibility of the proposed designs. The X-66A, though anticipated to boast a wingspan of 145 feet, could pave the way for the TTBW design to be adapted by aircraft of varying sizes and missions. An intriguing possibility is the integration of folding wing tips, a feature that could enhance compatibility with existing airport infrastructure.
  • Simulation and lab testing: Airline pilots will be afforded the opportunity to virtually pilot the X-66A via a flight simulator, enabling them to assess the vehicle’s handling characteristics firsthand. This immersive experience promises to provide critical data on the aircraft’s operational viability.
  • Flight testing: The operational and maintenance teams from airlines will scrutinize the X-66A as it undergoes modifications. A series of flight tests have been scheduled for 2028 and 2029 to be conducted at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center located at Edwards Air Force Base.

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