Digital cues in the Boeing ecoDemonstrator flight deck

Boeing, NAV CANADA testing new taxi technology to improve operational efficiency, enhance safety

Boeing ecoDemonstrator in flight

The Boeing ecoDemonstrator program takes promising technologies out of the lab and puts them through rigorous testing in an operational environment to improve efficiency, minimize our environmental footprint and enhance safety. (Photo by Paul Weatherman)

When the 2023 Boeing ecoDemonstrator, a 777-200ER (Extended Range), recently taxied to and from the runway at Vancouver International Airport, the standard verbal communication between the pilot and air traffic control went intentionally silent.

The two parties still exchanged taxi instructions – they were just delivered digitally.

In partnership with NAV CANADA, who owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, Boeing recently tested a new electronic flight bag (EFB) capability to coordinate a digital clearance to the airplane for taxiing to the gate upon arrival or toward the runway for departure.

  • The capability features Smart Airport Maps, a component of Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro, and provides a graphical depiction of the taxi instructions.
  • This can improve pilots’ situational awareness and operational efficiency for airlines.

Why it matters: The recent testing focused on how digital clearances and maps can improve pilot workflows.

“This technology can help reduce pilot workload, improve operational efficiency and enhance safety."
Capt. Kirk Vining, Chief Pilot, Product Development in Boeing Test & Evaluation

“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,” said Steve Altus, Boeing Technical Fellow, Digital Aviation Solutions.

Taxiing requires a high level of situational awareness from pilots, air traffic controllers and ground crews.

“This technology can help reduce pilot workload, improve operational efficiency and enhance safety,” said 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 potential benefits of the technology extend beyond the flight deck and into the air traffic control towers—one of the reasons why NAV CANADA was keen to collaborate with Boeing.

EFB image from flight deck

Boeing and NAV CANADA are testing a technology that could help improve pilots’ situational awareness and operational efficiency for airlines.

“Our goal, as Canada’s air navigation service provider, is to ensure aircraft travel on the safest and most efficient trajectory from departure to arrival, whether they are on the ground or in the air,” explains Blake Cushnie, Program Director at NAV CANADA. “This Boeing ecoDemonstrator trial is crafted with that in mind, and this innovative concept could improve the safety and efficiency of how we manage ground operations between air traffic control and pilots. Collaborating with Boeing allows us to advance these novel ideas, and we are delighted to be part of this endeavor.”

“We are focused on exploring and advancing innovations at YVR and for our industry to support safe, efficient, and sustainable airport operations. We are thrilled that Boeing and NAV CANADA are testing future technologies at YVR and look forward to continued collaboration that will assist in the development of future solutions for aviation,” said Beth Henschel, Director, Airside Operations at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Go deeper: This isn’t the first time Boeing digital capabilities have been tested to improve airplane taxiing.

Since its initial flights in 2012, the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program has accelerated innovation by taking new technologies out of the lab and testing them in an operational environment. Including this year’s platform, the program has tested about 250 technologies to help decarbonize aviation, improve operational efficiency and enhance safety and the passenger experience. Learn more about the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program and Boeing’s sustainability commitments, partnerships and efforts.

Boeing’s connections to Canada date back to 1919, when Bill Boeing made the first international airmail delivery from Vancouver to Seattle in Boeing’s C-700 seaplane.  Since then, Canada has become a customer, a supplier and a partner to Boeing in both the defense and commercial sectors.

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