FAA Awards Contracts for $125M to 5 Companies to Accelerate More Environmentally Friendly Aviation Technology; Renewable Fuels, Engines, Wings and Flight Management

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding $125 million in five separate contracts to Boeing, General Electric, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce-North America to develop and demonstrate technologies that will reduce commercial jet fuel consumption, emissions and noise. The contracts are part of the FAA’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) program, designed to speed the introduction of “green” technology into aviation. (Earlier post.)

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 five contracts are expected to total $125 million over the five-year span of the program. Under a cost sharing arrangement the companies will match or exceed the FAA’s contribution, bringing the overall value of the program to more than $250 million.

The CLEEN program helps develop environmentally friendly and energy efficient aircraft and engine technology that could be introduced into the commercial aircraft fleet. Specifically, CLEEN’s goals include developing and demonstrating by 2015:

  • Aircraft technology that reduces aircraft fuel burn by 33% relative to current subsonic aircraft technology, and which reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions;

  • Engine technology that reduces landing and takeoff cycle (LTO) NOx emissions by 60%, without increasing other gaseous or particle emissions, over the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard adopted in 2004;

  • Certifiable aircraft technology that reduces noise levels by 32 dB cumulative, relative to the current Stage 4 noise standard;

  • The extent to which new engine and aircraft technologies may be used to retrofit or re-engine aircraft to decrease aviation’s environmental impact. Wide ranging sustainable aviation jet fuels, including quantification of benefits; and

  • Safety and transition strategies that enable “drop in” replacement for petroleum-derived aviation fuels. Drop-in alternative fuels will require no significant modifications to aircraft and engines and with a goal of performing more efficiently, and cleaner than current fossil-based fuels.

The FAA will conduct independent assessments of CLEEN technologies using a modeling tool developed at Georgia Institute of Technology for the FAA.

Boeing. Boeing and the FAA each will contribute up to $25 million during the term of the project to conduct flight demonstrations of emergent airframe and engine technologies that have the potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and community noise.

The technologies being developed under the CLEEN program will be flight tested aboard two demonstration vehicles, a Next-Generation Boeing 737 in 2012, with a second series of test flights aboard a yet-to-be-determined twin-aisle airplane in 2013.

This flight-test program builds on the success of Boeing’s Quiet Technology Demonstrators, which successfully highlighted a variety of noise reduction technologies during test flights aboard Boeing 777 aircraft from 2001 to 2005.

According to Boeing CLEEN Program Manager Craig Wilsey, the technologies that will be developed and tested during demonstration flights include adaptive wing trailing edges and ceramic matrix composite acoustic engine nozzles.

Adaptive trailing edges pertain to a collection of small controllable devices that are integrated into the aft portion of the wing. 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 community noise at takeoff and landing.

New-generation engines on commercial airplanes are more efficient, but require materials that are capable of withstanding higher temperatures than previous engines. Ceramic matrix composites offer the potential of better thermal and structural performance, while helping to reduce weight and acoustic footprint.

In addition to Boeing Research & Technology, the company’s advanced central research, technology and innovation organization, Boeing’s CLEEN team is composed of engineers and support staff from Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Test & Evaluation.

General Electric. GE and the FAA will share the investment of up to $66 million for up to the five-year period. The CLEEN award will help fund three GE technologies, including TAPS II Combustor; Open Rotor; and Flight Management System - Air Traffic Management (FMS-ATM).

  • TAPS II Combustor: GE is developing the TAPS II combustor for its new engine core, called eCore. eCore will be part of CFM International’s new LEAP-X engine for narrow body aircraft as well as the new core for GE’s next generation regional and business jet engines. (Earlier post.) (CFM International is a 50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma (Safran Group).)

    The new core will offer up to 16% better fuel efficiency than GE’s best engines in service today. GE began testing the TAPS II combustor in June 2009 at a special altitude test chamber in Evendale, Ohio, as part of the first eCore tests. The results were very positive. CLEEN funding will help advance dynamic modeling and size scaling of the TAPS II combustor.

  • Open Rotor: In the 1980s, GE successfully ground tested and flew an open rotor or unducted fan engine, which offered significant fuel efficiency advantages over conventional ducted fan engines. By applying today’s advanced data acquisition systems and computational design tools to the open rotor engine, GE has improved the design to reduce fuel consumption by 26% and address noise challenges.

    Last year, GE started wind tunnel testing with NASA to evaluate counter-rotating fan systems for an open rotor engine. The CLEEN award will support blade aero-acoustic and pitch change mechanism research. Open rotor engine designs are among the longer-term technologies being evaluated for the LEAP-X engine.

  • Flight Management System - Air Traffic Management (FMS-ATM): Advanced FMS-ATM technology will enable commercial and military aircraft to routinely fly more optimum trajectories resulting in less fuel, emissions and noise. The CLEEN award will include technology demonstrations with Lockheed Martin, AirDat and Alaska Airlines. The program will develop and demonstrate two primary components:

    • Improvement to GE’s FMS trajectory algorithms for fuel, emissions and noise performance, and
    • Development of technology to enable the airborne FMS to digitally exchange information with the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) developed and deployed by Lockheed Martin. This allows the FAA to enable the 4-dimensional trajectory-based FMS to fly more optimum trajectories within the national air space.

Honeywell. The contract with Honeywell—valued at approximately $27 million over the five-year life of the agreement, cost shared with the FAA—is to develop mature technology for Fuel Burn Reduction and test aviation biofuels for use in Honeywell Gas Turbine Engines. The five-year contract covers a 12-month base period and four 12-month option periods.

Honeywell will use its TECH7000 turbofan test engine as the basis for its research. The TECH7000 is a turbofan technology demonstrator that is based on Honeywell’s HTF7000 propulsion engine.

To evaluate the use of aviation biofuels in aircraft engines, we will be working with Honeywell’s UOP business, a global leader in the development of refining process technologies. UOP has developed technology to convert sources like algae and camelina into Honeywell Green Jet Fuel, which meets all specifications for jet fuel and offers significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions. This contract will enable the industry to expedite the introduction of these new technologies into current and future aircraft engines, while advancing the introduction of alternative ‘drop in’ fuels for aviation, with particular focus on renewable options.

—Ron Rich, vice president of Propulsion Systems, Honeywell Aerospace

Honeywell will be working with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, a division of General Dynamics Corporation, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in this contract.

Pratt & Whitney. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded Pratt & Whitney a one-year contract with extension options, which will assist Pratt & Whitney to further develop and mature new jet engine technologies aimed at reduced fuel burn, noise and emissions.

The funding will support ongoing development of advanced technologies for the new PurePower engine family with the geared turbofan architecture. (Earlier post.) Pratt & Whitney is a United Technologies company.

The PurePower family of engines is designed to power the next generation of passenger aircraft. The combination of its gear system and advanced core allows PurePower engines to deliver double-digit improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions with a 50% reduction in noise over today’s engines.


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