Boeing, Embraer Collaborate for a Sustainable Future

A conversation with Boeing's Doug Christensen and Antonini Puppin-Macedo, and Embraer's Luiz Nerosky
Aug 7, 2017 3:15 PM ET

**This is the ninth article in a series focusing on The Boeing Company's environmental performance and progress in 2016. Visit for more information.**

Boeing began the ecoDemonstrator program to speed up development of new technologies that enhance safety and reduce fuel use, emissions and noise. The program has tested 60 technologies in the past five years on a variety of aircraft.

A first-of-its-kind partnership in 2016 brought together Boeing and Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer for a unique ecoDemonstrator experience. The team included Boeing’s Doug Christensen and Antonini Puppin-Macedo, and Embraer’s Luiz Nerosky. The three discussed the project’s benefits and surprises.

What brought Boeing and Embraer together for this unique collaboration?

Christensen: Boeing and Embraer share the passion to accelerate safety and environmental technologies. The ecoDemonstrator program provides the stage to bring the companies together to collaborate on advanced technologies.

Puppin-Macedo: Boeing and Embraer have a history of successful collaboration. We began working together on sustainable aviation fuel in 2012 through a series of workshops that brought together all stakeholders in Brazil. This led to the publication of the comprehensive “Roadmap for Sustainable Aviation Biofuels in Brazil” in 2014.

Together we launched the Joint Research Center for Sustainable Aviation Biofuels, right next door to the Boeing Research & Technology (BR&T) Center in São José dos Campos, Brazil. This positive crescendo of collaborations on biofuels, a key environmental element in aviation today, paved the way for us to join forces on the ecoDemonstrator program.

BR&T-Brazil led research on two technologies: biofuels and the slat cove noise reduction. By collaborating on flight tests, we can speed up getting these technologies ready for certification and implementation.

Nerosky: Both companies share the industry’s commitment to reduce the environmental footprint of aircraft transportation worldwide and aim for a sustainable industry by applying new technologies in future aircraft. Working with Boeing on the ecoDemonstrator program in testing new technologies reinforces, once again, Embraer’s commitment in that sense.

What are the benefits of two airplane manufacturers working together on advanced technologies to enhance safety and make flying more efficient?

Christensen: It’s a powerful approach to bring together the best and brightest engineers from both companies to accelerate advanced technologies.

Puppin-Macedo: Together, we can focus on benefits for the aviation industry and society as a whole and share different perspectives on global issues, such as reducing our carbon footprint and increasing the “global reach” of our collaborative actions. We can lead the industry, steer advocacy and accelerate innovation.

Nerosky: The ecoDemonstrator collaboration expands a relationship that began in 2012 when Boeing and Embraer signed a cooperation agreement to benefit their customers, companies and the global aviation industry.

Since then, Boeing and Embraer have supported Embraer’s KC-390 defense aircraft program and improved runway safety by providing commercial customers with tools to reduce runway excursions.

As Antonini mentioned, Boeing and Embraer later opened the joint biofuel research center in Sao Jose do Campos, Brazil, which also coordinated research with Brazilian universities and other institutions.

Regarding the ecoDemonstrator, by testing innovations on a real airplane together, the companies’ engineering teams shared their expertise and gained valuable insight into designing, building and integrating technology to obtain flight performance data from innovations.

Were there any surprises (such as unexpected benefits or challenges) during the collaboration?

Christensen: The biggest surprise to me was that, even though we came from different parts of the world and spoke different languages, we spoke the same airplane development and test language. Once we had the technology hardware in the hangar with the airplane, the team executed the test program in a very efficient way. It was really fun to be a part of it.

Puppin-Macedo: First, there was an excellent “no surprises.” We operated all the flights with a 10 percent biofuels blend seamlessly. It was a great working-together experience in all aspects.

As Doug pointed out, in just over a year, we went from sitting around a table discussing technology acceleration ideas to completing a three-week flight test demonstration program on an Embraer E170 prototype. This included defining the combined work statements, building and shipping hardware to Brazil, laying up the aircraft and conducting flight demonstrations.

As a challenge, it is still not so easy to conduct international efforts with customs procedures, different labor legislation, etc. The aviation industry would greatly benefit from more benevolent conditions for collaborative efforts, such as the ecoDemonstrator program.

Nerosky: The tests ran smoothly and met the schedule. The pleasant surprises came from the results. If our computational simulations data are correct, the flight test will demonstrate a substantial reduction of slat noise with the fillers. We also confirmed the “drop-in” characteristics of the new ice-phobic painting applied in our ecoDemonstrator airplane, meaning no changes are required to the current aircraft painting system. This is an important step toward quicker implementation of this painting technology.

Will collaborations like this become more common as the aerospace industry works to improve airplane performance and reduce aviation’s carbon footprint?

Christensen: Yes, I believe so. Aviation safety and environmental improvements are core beliefs and something we can all agree are required for developing a sustainable aviation industry.

Puppin-Macedo: Historically, the aviation industry has been very collaborative in regulations and safety. Now, as environmental concerns are more at center stage, our industry is poised to live up to its history and drive the future as we work together. The Boeing-Embraer collaboration on the ecoDemonstrator is in the industry’s vanguard, with very innovative technologies that we hope to see adopted in the very near future.

Nerosky: We certainly believe so.