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Boeing, NASA, United ecoDemonstrator Tests of SAF Benefits

Boeing, NASA, United Airlines To Test SAF Benefits with Air-to-Air Flights

To strengthen sustainability in aviation, Boeing [NYSE: BA] is partnering with NASA and United Airlines for ecoDemonstrator in-flight testing to measure how sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) affects contrails and non-carbon emissions and reduce the fuel’s life cycle climate impact. A Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explorer—a 737-10 for United Airlines—will fly on SAF. NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab will track it to conduct air-to-air flight testing measuring non-CO2 emissions.

  • Studying how SAF can reduce soot and impact contrails.
  • Program supported by FAA, GE Aerospace, German Aerospace Center (DLR), and World Energy.

ecoDemonstrator Flight Tests SAF, Studies Contrail Formation

The Boeing ecoDemonstrator plane will fly with 100% SAF and conventional jet fuel in separate tanks. It will alternate fuels during testing. NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab will fly behind the commercial jet. It will measure emissions produced by each type of fuel and contrail ice particles. NASA satellites will capture images of contrail formation as part of the testing.

The researchers aim to understand how advanced fuels, engine combustor designs, and other technologies may reduce atmospheric warming. For example, tests will assess how SAF affects the characteristics of contrails. These are the persistent condensation trails produced when airplanes fly through cold, humid air. While their full impact is not yet understood, some research has suggested certain contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere.

World Energy supplies SAF for the tests from its Paramount, Calif., facility. Additional support includes:

  • U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides funding through the ASCENT Center of Excellence.
  • GE Aerospace provides technical expertise and project funding.
  • German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt or DLR) provides experts and instrumentation. 

A Multi-year Partnership to Study SAF: Boeing and NASA

The project is the latest phase in a multi-year partnership between Boeing and NASA to analyze how SAF can reduce emissions and enable other environmental benefits. Compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF – made from a range of sustainably produced feedstocks – can reduce emissions by up to 85% over the fuel’s life cycle and offers the greatest potential to reduce aviation CO2 over the next 30 years. SAF also produces less soot, which can improve air quality near airports.

Boeing: Solving Hard Problems

“We are honored to collaborate with NASA, United Airlines, and other valued partners on research that will strengthen the industry’s understanding of the benefits of SAF beyond reducing carbon emissions,” said Boeing Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Raymond. “We’ve solved hard problems before, and if we continue to take meaningful actions, I’m confident we’ll achieve a more sustainable aerospace future, together.”

NASA: Flight Testing is the Gold Standard

“Flight testing is complex and resource-intensive, yet it’s the gold standard for understanding how sustainable aerospace innovations affect changes in contrails and climate,” says Rich Wahls, NASA mission integration manager for the Sustainable Flight National Partnership. “This is why we’re bringing NASA’s DC-8 to bear on this collaboration, where the valuable flight data will improve our predictive models.”

United: Better Understanding of Contrails and Greenhouse-gas

“This collaboration between Boeing, NASA and United has the potential to not only help us better understand contrails but to provide the full scope of what our transition to SAF can provide beyond greenhouse-gas reductions,” said United Chief Sustainability Officer Lauren Riley.

GE Aerospace: Understanding the Impact of SAF

“We at GE Aerospace proudly support this groundbreaking research collaboration that will deepen our scientific understanding of the impact of SAF on emissions for a more sustainable future of flight,” said GE Aerospace Vice President of Engineering Mohamed Ali.

DLR: Close International Collaboration

“To achieve climate-compatible aviation, we need close international cooperation. The German Aerospace Center has decades of experience in research on the climate impact of the entire aviation system by advancing measurement technology and simulations,” says Markus Fischer, DLR Divisional Board Member for Aeronautics. “The continuation of transatlantic cooperation now finds a new summit and underlines the international commitment to reduce the climate impact from aviation’s CO2 and non-CO2 effects.” 

Progress for Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Program

The ecoDemonstrator program by Boeing has made significant progress this year. They have expanded the program to include Explorer airplanes dedicated to conducting short-term, specific test projects. One of the highlights was the collaboration between Boeing, NASA, and Alaska Airlines. They conducted ground testing of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) emissions on a 737-9 in 2021. In 2022, they took the testing to the skies with the ecoDemonstrator 777-200ER and 787-10 flight-test jets. Boeing has also committed to delivering commercial airplanes compatible with 100% SAF by 2030.

Furthermore, Boeing has developed the 737-10, the largest airplane in their single-aisle 737 MAX family. This aircraft is designed to reduce fuel usage and emissions by 20% compared to its predecessors.

About the Project Participants

Boeing is a leading aerospace company that operates globally. They specialize in developing, manufacturing, and servicing commercial airplanes, defense products, and space systems. With customers in over 150 countries, Boeing leverages a diverse supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability, and community impact. The company is committed to innovation, sustainability, and a culture based on safety, quality, and integrity. To explore career opportunities at Boeing, visit

United Airlines offers an extensive global route network. The airline has US hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. With a focus on customer service and convenience, United Airlines welcomes individuals interested in joining their team. To learn more about career opportunities, visit

GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet engines, components, and commercial and military aircraft systems. With a global service network, they are dedicated to supporting their offerings. GE Aerospace has an installed base of over 40,000 commercial and 26,000 military aircraft engines. The company helps to shape the future of flight. For more details, visit their website at

DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany’s research center for aeronautics and space. It engages in research and development across various fields, such as aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security, and digitalization. Additionally, the German Space Agency at DLR plans and implements the national space program on behalf of the federal government. DLR’s two project management agencies oversee funding programs and support knowledge transfer.

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