Boeing ecoDemonstrators: Onboard the Explore 787-10 (& A Complete List)

With significant and easily visible modifications to their appearance, some test and research aircraft like Honeywell’s 757 or NASA’s DC-8 are easy to tell apart from regular airliners.

Others – like Boeing’s ecoDemonstrators – are more subtle and aside from their liveries look, at first glance, just like regular airliners. Recently, I had a chance to tour one such aircraft – the latest ecoDemonstrator in Boeing’s fleet, a Boeing 787-10 – during its visit to Tokyo Narita Airport.

Continue reading to see what it was like onboard. Later in the article, I also go through all of the aircraft that Boeing used as ecoDemonstrators to this date.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator
Boeing ecoDemonstrator.

Onboard ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10

The Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 was originally built for Vietnam Airlines. In fact, before Boeing started using the aircraft for test flights, it spent some time parked in Victorville wearing a Vietnamese registration (VN-A876) and the Vietnam Airlines livery. That said, the airline decided not to take up the airframe and Boeing decided to use it as a testbed instead.

With that, at some point, its current registration (N8290V) was painted over the Vietnamese one, and more recently, the aircraft was repainted into the ecoDemonstrator Explore livery.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10
The aircraft wears a simple livery.

While touring the aircraft, there were a couple of things indicating that the aircraft was a testbed rather than a standard airliner.

First, there were “EXPERIMENTAL” titles above L1 and R1 doors. Second, there were a few different warnings taped to some of the interior walls with the most notable ones saying “this aircraft does not comply with federal safety regulations for standard aircraft” and that the use of unapproved electronic devices was forbidden.

Other than that, however, there were very few differences compared to a regular airliner.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Experimental Aircraft
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Expermintal Warnings
Warnings onboard.

The cockpit with an impressive array of LCD screens was essentially the same as on any other 787.

That said, some additional equipment such as cameras for recording test flights was installed in parts of the cockpit.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Cockpit

The cabin was equipped with regular business and economy class seats – the same ones it would fly with had it been delivered to Vietnam Airlines. In addition to the seat design which was a tell-tale sign that the aircraft was originally destinated to Vietnam Airlines, the airline’s logo could be found on some of the galley equipment too.

At the front of the aircraft was a business class cabin with 24 reverse herringbone seats spread across six rows in a 1-2-1 layout. Behind that were three economy class cabins – a small one and two large ones – with a total of 343 seats in a 3-3-3 layout.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Business Class Cabin
Business class cabin.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Business Class Seat
Business class seat.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Economy Class Cabin
Economy class cabin.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Economy Class Seats
Economy class seats.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Galley
Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam Airlines logo in the galley.

The one thing in the passenger cabin that made it clear that the 787-10 was a testbed and not a regular airliner was the presence of bright red test equipment on some of the seats and cables connecting the various pieces of equipment.

Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10 Testing Equipment
Testing equipment onboard the ecoDemonstrator Explore 787-10. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing ecoDemonstrators: A Complete List

Boeing announced the ecoDemonstrator program at the 2011 Paris Air Show with the aim “to accelerate promising technologies and move them onto airplane models and into new aircraft design considerations across the industry.” The first ecoDemonstrator took off in 2012 and the program has been running since then.

As part of the program, Boeing partners with other industry players including research institutions, airlines, and component manufacturers to test new technologies. To date, ten different aircraft participated in the program:

  1. Boeing 737-800 (N897NN): The first ecoDemonstrator aircraft was used in that role before being put into commercial service with American Airlines. It wore American’s bare metal livery and featured small ecoDemonstrator decals on engines and fuselage when it joined the program in 2012.
  2. Boeing 787-8 (N7874): The second aircraft in the program was the fourth 787 ever built. It served as an ecoDemonstrator in 2014. The aircraft wears Boeing’s house colors and is still owned by the company.
  3. Boeing 757-200 (N757ET): The aircraft was originally delivered to United Airlines in 1990 as N506UA. It was painted in TUI colors after being acquired by Boeing in 2015 as TUI was one of the main partners of the third ecoDemonstrator. This 757-200 was used by Boeing as a testbed until 2015.
  4. Embraer E170 (PP-XJB): The fourth ecoDemonstrator was the first and so far only non-Boeing aircraft to participate in the program. It was painted in an ecoDemonstrator livery featuring both Boeing and Embraer logos and served in that role in 2016.
  5. Boeing 777F (N878FD): For the fifth ecoDemonstrator, Boeing used a brand new FedEx 777. It was the first – and so far only – time that a freighter was used as an ecoDemonstrator. While being part of the program in 2018, the aircraft wore small ecoDemonstrator and Boeing decals on its fuselage on top of the standard FedEx livery. After the program finished, the aircraft joined FedEx’s fleet which it is part of to this day.
  6. Boeing 777-200 (N772ET): Originally delivered to Air China in 2001, the airline retired the aircraft in 2018. In 2019, Boeing brought it out of storage as the sixth ecoDemonstrator. Still wearing its ecoDemonstrator livery, the aircraft was stored in Victorville in 2020.
  7. Boeing 787-10 (N8572C): For its 2020 ecoDemonstrator, Boeing partnered with Etihad Airways and used a 787-10 prior to delivering it to the airline. This ecoDemonstrator wore fairly extensive decals on top of the regular Etihad Airways livery. The aircraft currently flies for Etihad Airways as A6-BMI.
  8. Boeing 737 MAX 9 (N60436): The eighth ecoDemonstrator was the second 737 to serve in the program. The aircraft wore a special Alaska Airlines livery with green mountains across its fuselage. After serving as the 2021 ecoDemonstrator, the aircraft was delivered to Alaska Airlines which it flies for to this day as N979AK.
  9. Boeing 777-200ER (N861BC): The aircraft was originally delivered to Singapore Airlines as 9V-SVL in 2002. Singapore Airlines used the aircraft until 2018 after which it briefly flew for Air New Zealand and Surinam Airways. The aircraft joined Boeing’s fleet and was painted in a special ecoDemonstrator livery in 2022. It serves as an ecoDemonstrator to this day.
  10. Boeing 787-10 (N8290V): The latest ecoDemonstrator is the second 787-10 in the program. The aircraft was originally built for Vietnam Airlines and briefly wore a Vietnamese registration (VN-A876). The airline did not take the aircraft up, though, and so Boeing turned it into the next ecoDemonstrator and repainted it from the Vietnam Airlines livery into a special ecoDemostrator Explorer livery.

Boeing ecoDemonstrators Timeline

The first nine aircraft each tested multiple technologies over the course of their life as ecoDemonstrators. Among others, the ecoDemonstrators tested:

  • Additively manufactured airplane and engine parts to help reduce fuel use and manufacturing waste
  • Bug-phobic coatings to reduce the residue left by bug strikes on the leading edges of aircraft wings
  • Active flow control to improve airflow over the rudder and maximize its aerodynamic efficiency
  • “Ice-phobic” paint to reduce icing and help prevent the accumulation of dirt and bugs
  • Special sensors and air visualization techniques near the wing surface to better understand in-flight aerodynamics
  • Aircraft noise measurements from sensors on the airplane and the ground
  • Small vertical vanes on the wing that improve aerodynamic efficiency during takeoff and landing
  • An environmentally preferred refrigerant and a new fire suppression agent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • A heads-up enhanced vision system for pilots to improve operational efficiency

The latest ecoDemonstrator (787-10 registered N8290V) is the first aircraft in a new ecoDemonstrator Explorer program which focuses on testing one technology at a time. This aircraft recently conducted an MR TBO (Multi-Regional Trajectory Based Operations) test flight spanning airspaces of four countries including Japan where I had a chance to see it.


Recently, I had a chance to look onboard Boeing’s latest ecoDemonstrator aircraft – a Boeing 787-10. While in many regards the aircraft was similar to its airline-operated counterparts, there were also some clear signs showing that it was a testbed. The aircraft is the second 787-10 to participate in the ecoDemonstrator program and the tenth ecoDemonstrator aircraft overall.

Other aircraft that served as ecoDemonstrators in the past include a 737-800, a 777-200, a 757-200, and even an Embraer E170 – the only non-Boeing aircraft to participate in the program. While some of the aircraft wore liveries of the airlines they were later delivered to with small ecoDemonstrator decals, others were in full-scale ecoDemonstrator liveries.


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