Boeing workers find ways to make 777 deliveries greener
Boeing workers came up with 10 "green" initiatives for the 777 -- from when the jet rolls out the production doors through painting and flight testing to delivery. The company estimates the changes will save 300,000 gallons of jet fuel and cut 5.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually during the 777 delivery process.
"This was the effort of many, many people," said Danielle Vardaro, an engineer who helped implement some of the 777 delivery team's environmentally friendly procedures.
The changes were employee-generated, with some initiatives being implemented years ago and others starting only recently.
Some initiatives are similar to what Boeing is doing inside the Everett factory -- increasing recycling of cardboard, plastic, glass and aluminum at the delivery center. The 777 flight line workers also are trying to more efficiently use water in their role of getting an aircraft to customers.
Many of the initiatives required customer buy-in, because Boeing was proposing changes in flight testing and the delivery process, Vardaro said.
For instance, Boeing used to change out all of an aircraft's filters -- hydraulic filters, engine fuel filters and auxiliary power unit filters -- after test fights, before delivering a 777 to the customer. Each 777 has about 20 filters.
"One of the major reasons we pitched this to engineering was that we had so much hazardous waste" as a result of the filter changes, said Brian Collins, a manager on the flight line.
Initially, Boeing was replacing the filters with the thought that those initially used filters were capturing debris or waste generated from early operation of the aircraft. But engineers conducted research to see if replacing the filters after so little use was actually necessary.
Boeing also did away with duplicative engine testing that Boeing used to do -- even after engine-maker General Electric had. That means less noise at Paine Field, lower carbon emissions and a savings on fuel.
The company has also made adjustments in flight testing. Every aircraft Boeing builds -- whether it's a brand-new model or one that's been in production for decades -- goes through testing to make sure it flies safely and the way it's supposed to. Typically, Boeing pilots fly a newly produced airplane, which is then flown and tested by the customer's pilots. Both would perform fuel testing with the aircraft on similar flights.
But by using test data and by talking with customers, "we've eliminated the redundancy in flight testing," Collins said.
Boeing also has taken steps to make its own flight-testing more efficient. That includes using Everett's Paine Field more frequently, rather than airports in Moses Lake or Yakima, thus reducing flight time and fuel consumption.
A few other initiatives include using fuel carts to catch jet fuel that spills during testing. The excess fuel is used again. The company also has bought electric vehicles to transport people and items around the flight line.
Boeing has implemented nine out of the 10 initiatives on the 777 as standard practices in delivering 777s. However, airline customers choose whether to use the 10th -- a chrome-free primer on aircraft.
In November, an Air New Zealand 777 was the first to have all 10 environmentally friendly efforts used on it.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; email@example.com.
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