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Pioneering Aviation Sustainability: Boeing, NASA, and United Airlines Join Forces

In a groundbreaking endeavor to enhance aviation's sustainability, Boeing has forged a strategic partnership with NASA and United Airlines, embarking on a series of flight tests aimed at measuring the impact of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on contrails and non-carbon emissions. Their mission? To reduce the aviation industry's climate impact throughout the entire lifecycle of aviation fuel.

At the heart of this project is Boeing's second ecoDemonstrator Explorer, a specially designed 737-10 for United Airlines. This aircraft will take to the skies equipped with separate storage for 100% SAF and conventional aviation fuel, seamlessly switching between the two during the testing phase. Following closely behind will be NASA's Airborne Science Laboratory, the DC-8, which will meticulously assess emissions produced by each type of fuel and monitor the ice particles that make up contrails.

Complementing these efforts are NASA's satellites, capturing vital images of contrail formation as part of the testing process. The ultimate goal? A comprehensive understanding of how advanced fuels, innovative engine combustion designs, and emerging technologies can effectively counteract atmospheric warming. One specific focus of these tests is to explore how SAF impacts contrail formation when aircraft navigate through cold, humid air. Although the full scope of the impact remains uncertain, preliminary research suggests that certain contrails may contribute to heat retention in the atmosphere.

World Energy, operating out of their facilities in Paramount, California, is the key SAF supplier for these tests. This ambitious project also enjoys additional support from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), providing financial backing through the ASCENT Center of Excellence. Technical expertise and project funding are contributed by GE Aerospace, and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt or DLR) adds a wealth of knowledge and instrumentation.

This initiative represents the latest phase of a longstanding collaboration between Boeing and NASA, with the shared mission of uncovering how SAF can mitigate emissions and introduce a range of environmental advantages. SAF, derived from sustainably sourced raw materials, has the potential to reduce emissions by up to 85% over the entire fuel lifecycle when compared to traditional jet fuel, making it a powerful ally in the quest to reduce aviation CO2 emissions over the next three decades. Notably, SAF also yields fewer particulate emissions, contributing to improved air quality in proximity to airports.

Boeing's commitment to creating commercial aircraft compatible with 100% SAF by 2030 serves as a testament to their unwavering dedication to advancing sustainable aviation.

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