SEATTLE -- On the outside it looks like any other brand new Boeing 737-800 sporting an American Airlines paint job.
But this jet has a few extras -- technology designed to improve fuel efficiency and cut noise.
Boeing said its planes are now 70-percent more fuel efficient and 90-percent quieter than they were in the early decades of the jet age. Still, airlines say they still need to save on fuel, and people who live near airports still wish planes were a lot quieter.
“You just live with it,” said Fred Stewart, who lives directly under Sea-Tac’s relatively new third runway. He grew up around here, remembers is being louder, but still hopes Boeing can find a way to cut the noise further.
“Progress is progress. That’s all appreciated. At least their thinking about making things better,” Stewart said.
The Boeing 737-800 equipped with the new technology is a joint project with American Airlines and the FAA, which helped pay for some of the changes. The technology most relevant to noise is a device at the rear of the engine called the Variable Area Fan Nozzle. The Nozzle expands and contracts, helping deflect noise up and away from homes. It also allows the engine to land at a lower speed, which should also cut noise.
How much noise reduction will be achieved is not yet known. Recently, the jet spent weeks testing in the quiet environment of the airport at Glasgow, Montana. On the ground, an array of dozens of microphones monitored just the noise coming from the jet, and that data is being analyzed now.
Another device is the Adaptive Trailing Edge, which can be deflected downward like a mini flap, boosting fuel efficiency, especially on takeoff.
The plane also is equipped with new navigation technology to allow it to use more direct routes and navigate around bad weather -- saving fuel and time. Active Engine Virbration Reduction should also make the plane more efficient.
This is not the first time the industry has worked to improve efficiency while creating a more environment-friendly airplane. “When we combine all these small things together, we end up with earth shaking changes,” said John Tracy, Boeing’s chief technology officer.