In the aviation world, the project is known as “CLEEN” — and it’s one of those apt acronyms that really does fit the bill. A joint industry and Federal Aviation Administration program, it stands for “Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise” and its goal is to accelerate the development of technologies that reduce noise and emissions while simultaneously improving fuel efficiency. The drive is to have the technologies enter the fleet beginning in 2015. At the Air Transport World Eco-Aviation Conference in Washington yesterday afternoon, the FAA announced that GE Aviation has been picked to demonstrate technologies that do the job — and both GE and the FAA will invest a combined total of $66 million in the project over five years.
| CLEEN and mean: The blue line shows how aircraft typically descend in stair-step approaches, which take longer and burn more fuel. GE’s Flight Management System (FMS) — which is an
ecomagination product — flies an optimized descent into the airport. The more direct path, which keeps the plane at a higher “cruise” altitude longer before descent, saves fuel.
In its announcement yesterday, the FAA awarded five companies $125 million in contracts, with each company investing an equal or greater amount to match. GE’s CLEEN award will help fund three technologies, with one — as seen in the illustration above — being software-driven solutions that enable commercial aircraft to fly more optimum trajectories. They’re known as Flight Management System — Air Traffic Management (FMS-ATM) technologies and they result in “lower fuel burn and cost for airlines, fewer delays for passengers, and lower emissions and noise for communities,” said Lorraine Bolsinger, president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems.
GE is partnering with Alaska Airlines to install the Flight Management System on their Boeing 737 planes in order to demonstrate the environmental benefits. GE is also working with Lockheed Martin to demonstrate how the airborne system can be integrated with the ground-based air traffic system. And GE and AirDat are working together to develop and demonstrate technology to reduce the effects of weather on aircraft fuel consumption and emissions. AirDat’s sensors gather, analyze and transmit highly accurate real-time weather data, including wind speeds and trajectory during flight.
Another part of the award will go toward work on an “open rotor” engine. As you can see in the video below, the open rotor is a startling design in which the fans are not only exposed, but rotate in opposite directions — the result is a substantial fuel saving.
A flight across the Atlantic in the late 1980s showed GE’s technology worked. But as fuel prices at the time fell sharply, the engine was never commercially launched. Now, with saving fuel a high priority in the industry, the program is in high gear, with tests currently being done at NASA.
|Comeback tour: The open rotor is known as an unducted fan engine. By applying today’s advanced data acquisition systems and computational design tools, GE has improved the design to reduce fuel consumption by 26 percent and address noise challenges. Last year, GE started wind tunnel testing with NASA.|
The third part of GE’s demo program will focus on a next generation combustor, which is the part of the engine where combustion takes place. It will focus on the TAPS II Combustor for GE’s new engine core — called eCore — that will offer up to 16 percent better fuel efficiency than GE’s best engines in service today. A TAPS combustor creates a leaner fuel-to-air mixture when compared to the rich fuel mixture of traditional combustor systems. The leaner mixture reduces temperature spikes, which also reduces NOx emissions that are generated during those spikes. The combustor in development builds on the version being used in GE’s new GEnx jet engine for Boeing’s Dreamliner and new 747 freighter.
* Read the announcement
* Read “FAA awards $125 million to Boeing, others to green aviation” in the Seattle Post Intelligencer
* Read coverage from the Associated Press and Flight Global
* Read “GE and NASA to test open rotor jet engine systems” on GE Reports
* Read “Jump into GE’s integrated cockpit at Paris Air Show” on GE Reports
* Learn about the Eco-Aviation conference on ATW’s website
* Read more GE Aviation stories on GE Reports