Boeing’s 777 ecoDemonstrator Taxis Around Vancouver Airport With No Verbal Air Traffic Control Instructions

Dec 27, 2023

Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator jet recently taxied to and from a runway without receiving the usual verbal air traffic control communication. Instead, the 777-200ER received its taxiing instructions digitally before takeoff and after landing.

ecoDemonstrator utilizes digital clearance

In collaboration with NAV CANADA, Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator taxied to and from the runway at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) without a single word shared between its flight crew and air traffic control (ATC). The plane was instead cleared digitally as part of a new electronic flight bag (EFB) capability – this includes Smart Airport Maps from US-based company Jeppesen, which offers a graphic map of taxiing instructions. Steve Altus, Boeing Technical Fellow, Digital Aviation Solutions, commented, “Testing this technology in a real-world environment in collaboration with NAV CANADA is an important step in our goal to improve the efficiency of air traffic control and pilot communication during taxiing.”

Last year, Boeing also tested several new flight deck technologies, including Taxi Time Information and Taxi Clearance, which can help operators decrease fuel burn and reduce turnaround times.

Improving efficiency and safety

Implementing digital navigation systems can offer several benefits for both pilots and ATC teams by reducing pilot workload, enhancing safety and increasing operational efficiency. As explained by Capt. Kirk Vining, Chief Pilot, Product Development in Boeing Test & Evaluation, “It eliminates the need to transcribe voice commands, which reduces errors, and it reduces delays and confusion from routes being broadcast over a shared frequency.”

The taxiing process can be quite intensive both from a workload and situational awareness perspective – transitioning to a digital system can mitigate this, contributing to greater safety and efficiency. Blake Cushnie, Program Director at NAV CANADA, added,”This innovative concept could improve the safety and efficiency of how we manage ground operations between air traffic control and pilots.”

Over a decade of innovation

Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator – initially a Boeing 737-800 – first took to the skies in 2012 and has since tested out all kinds of emerging technologies for the greater good of the industry. According to Boeing, the program has been used to test around 250 technologies during this period. The program is now on its ninth participating aircraft – a Boeing 777-200ER (registration: N861BC) – which previously flew under Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand. As revealed earlier this year, the jet will be used to test 19 technologies this year, while Boeing will also roll out ecoDemonstrator ‘Explorer’ aircraft, including a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, to test out additional technologies. Despite its name, the ecoDemonstrator isn’t just about exploring sustainability – it has been used for a variety of purposes, including the passenger experience, safety, and operational efficiency.

(Source:, Luke Bodell, Photo/Shutterstock-Thierry Weber)


Verified by ExactMetrics