WeCare research flight project successfully completed
The German Aerospace Centre (DLR), in close cooperation with Deutsche Lufthansa and the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC), successfully conducted flight experiments to measure the emissions and contrails of General Electric's GEnx aircraft engines during en-route cruising.
The research was carried out by DLR’s Falcon 20E, which conducted some far-field contrail measurements within 7-50 nautical miles behind fifteen predefined Lufthansa aircraft between 6 and 24 February 2017.
The background to the project was that ground measurements show a considerable reduction in nitrogen oxide and soot for flights with GEnx engines, but to date no data had been collected during flights. Therefore, the measurements made by the WeCare research project were the first of their kind worldwide.
The airplanes examined were Boeing 747-8 aircraft equipped with GEnx jet engines “offering up to 15% improved fuel efficiency and 15% less CO2 compared to GE’s CF6 engine” according to GE. Boeing 747-4 models have conventional engines and were included in the experiment for comparison purposes.
The measurements lasted an average of 20-30 minutes per flight between flight levels 300 and 330 in the Hannover Upper Information Region controlled by MUAC’s air traffic controllers. The Falcon essentially flew directly behind the selected aircraft, collecting data from their contrails and emissions. Like other experimental, test and military practise flights in this area, the Falcon was controlled by MUAC air traffic controllers at special working positions in close coordination with MUAC controllers working in the standard sectors, handling the commercial Lufthansa flights taking part in the experiment.
The data collected is completely new and unique and will serve as an excellent basis for further environmental analysis. The WeCare project is yet another example of efficient cooperation between different actors in aviation, capitalising on the interconnected proficiency and expertise of each partner, a model to be emulated elsewhere.