FAA awards contracts to manufacturers to help accelerate pace of aircraft environmental performance improvements
First test flight of Pratt & Whitney's PurePower PW1000G engine (photo: P&W)
Mon 5 July 2010 – Around $250 million will be spent over the next five years in a series of contracts awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help develop and demonstrate technologies to reduce commercial aircraft jet fuel consumption, emissions and noise. The contracts are part of the FAA’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) programme and have been signed with Boeing and engine manufacturers GE Aviation, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce North America. The goal of the programme is to achieve a reduction in fuel burn by 33 percent, a reduction in NOx emissions by 60 percent and a reduction in cumulative aircraft noise levels by 32 decibels through technologies that could be introduced into aircraft from 2015.
The five companies will research and demonstrate a variety of technologies, including sustainable alternative aviation fuels; lighter and more efficient gas turbine engine components; noise reducing engine nozzles; advanced wing trailing edges; optimized flight trajectories using onboard flight management systems; and open rotor and geared turbofan engines.
The FAA is contributing $125 million to the value of the contracts over the five-year span of the programme, with the manufacturers matching or exceeding the FAA’s contribution in a cost-sharing arrangement.
Under the programme, Boeing will develop and test during demonstration flights adaptive wing trailing edges and ceramic matrix composite acoustic engine nozzles. According to Boeing, most traditional wings are designed for best performance while at cruise, and have performance compromises during other flight phases. Adaptive trailing edges can help tailor the wing configuration to reduce fuel burn at takeoff, climb and cruise, and to reduce noise at takeoff and landing. Ceramic matrix composites offer the potential of better thermal and structural performance, while helping to reduce weight and the acoustic footprint.
Honeywell will be testing fuel burn reduction technologies and sustainable jet biofuels provided by its UOP business – described as Honeywell Green Jet Fuel – using Honeywell’s TECH7000 turbofan test engine. The company will be working with Gulfstream Aerospace and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the contract.
Pratt & Whitney will use the funding to support ongoing development of its geared turbofan PurePower engine family, designed for the next generation of passenger aircraft. The engine, which is due to enter service in 2013, is expected to provide double-digit improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions with a 50% reduction in noise over today’s engines. The engine manufacturer claims geared turbofan engine technology should achieve fuel burn savings of 25-35% by the 2020s.
According to GE Aviation, the CLEEN award will help fund three technologies being developed by the company. The first is a combustor for its new engine core that is part of the new CFMI LEAP-X engine for narrowbody aircraft as well as the new core for GE’s next generation of regional and business jet engines. GE claims the new core will offer up to 16% better fuel efficiency than its best engines in service today.
Demonstrations of advanced Flight Management System – Air Traffic Management (FMS-ATM) technology will be funded by the programme which will enable aircraft to routinely fly more optimum trajectories that result in less fuel, emissions and noise. Alaska Airlines will also participate in the project.
Funding will also be available to support blade aero-acoustic and pitch change mechanism research concerning GE’s work on open rotor engines. GE has been improving the design of open rotor engines, which it first tested back in the 1980s, and believes fuel consumption can be lowered by 26% but needs to address the noise challenges posed by such engines.
“The FAA is contracting with the aviation community to aggressively meet critical environmental and energy goals,” commented FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “The CLEEN programme is a central piece of the Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic modernization environmental strategy.”
Meanwhile, the FAA and the European Commission have initialled a Memorandum that will enable the EU and US to develop and deploy greener and more efficient air transport systems through a legally binding cooperation framework. The two parties will be able to address cooperatively any civil aviation research and development issues, including environmental improvement activities and alternative fuels.
Agreement on a technical Annex was also reached that will ensure interoperability of the EU’s SESAR and NextGen air traffic modernization programmes, with a coordination of technical efforts in support of global standardization of air traffic management systems. The Commission says the rapid implementation of the Annex, which first has to be approved by the European Parliament, would provide a substantial contribution to the effective deployment of SESAR and consequently to accelerating the implementation of the Single European Sky.