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Boeing and Alaska Airlines want to make the blue skies greener

The two companies will use a Boeing 737 Max 9 to test new technologies that promise to make aviation greener, safer and more comfortable for passengers.

Boeing EcoDemonstrator aircraft
The 737 Max 9 EcoDemonstrator has a pretty paint job.

Even with the sharp drop in air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, flying remains a significant contributor to the emissions that cause climate change. But as long as it remains the best way to move long distances, changing the very machines we fly on may bring some relief.

Boeing, for one, has been developing new technologies to make air travel more sustainable for almost 10 years as part of its EcoDemonstrator program. Today the company announced that its newest aircraft for evaluating those advancements would be a Boeing 737 Max 9 owned by Alaska Airlines.

In a series of flights that will last over the summer, the Max 9 (in a gorgeous special livery) will test 20 projects that Boeing says will make aviation greener, but also safer and more comfortable for passengers. It will be the ninth aircraft Boeing has used in the program, which started in 2012.

"Through our collaboration with industry partners, the ecoDemonstrator program is a great example of our commitment to work together to make flying safer and more sustainable for current and future generations," said Boeing Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Raymond in a statement.

Among the advancements to be tested in the Alaska Max 9 are:

  • A new fire extinguishing agent that's intended to replace Halon 1301, an ozone layer-depleting agent that's no longer produced in the United States.
  • Collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to measure greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere during flights.
  • New acoustic lining for engine nacelles designed to lower noise levels.
  • Use of recycled material for passenger cabin walls to reduce waste and make the cabin quieter.
  • Redesigned anti-collision lights on the plane's exterior that will reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency.
  • As Bloomberg reports, overhead air vents with 3D-printed nozzles will create a "curtain of air" to prevent germs from widely circulating in the cabin.

See also: Want to travel to Europe this summer? Here's what you should know