Honeywell Aerospace's Boeing 757 Testbed Turns 40

This is the story of a one-of-a-kind test aircraft at the forefront of driving technological advances for the last 40 years.



June 13, 2022

DALLAS - By the age of 40, most passenger aircraft are retired and wrecked, but for Honeywell's renowned Boeing 757 test aircraft, there's a lot more high-flying to come.

Honeywell has been using the Boeing 757-200 testbed for research and development since 2005, although the aircraft has a long history dating back to when it first rolled off the assembly line in June 1982. Following that, in 1983, the plane was assigned to the defunct airline Eastern Airlines.

It was only the fifth 757 to leave the Boeing factory, and more than 1,000 would be built in total. Although 757s are still in use by airlines all over the world, many have been retired in recent years and replaced by newer planes.

Honeywell Aerospace's test flight engineers have used the type to test many of the technology breakthroughs that the flying public now enjoys. The 757 has touched almost every aspect of aircraft, from turbine engines to electrical and mechanical systems, complex avionics software, and high-speed networking technology.

Although most 757s serve as medium-haul aircraft, transporting around 200 people between two points, Honeywell's testbed has only 25 seats to accommodate a variety of flight test engineering stations. Despite its small capacity, Honeywell's 757 has logged a lot of miles.

The test plane is most likely the only 757 in existence that has visited more than 30 nations on five continents. It has completed over 800 flight tests and logged over 3,000 flight test hours around the world.

The 757's most distinguishing feature is the pylon that protrudes from the fuselage. The pylon allows Honeywell to test its turbojet and turbofan engines in real-world conditions and collect vital data that aid in engine development, even if a third engine isn't always attached.

TPE331-14GR test engine installed on the Boeing 757. Photo: Honeywell Aerospace

Tested Technology

  • IntuVue RDR- 4000 Weather Radar and IntuVue RDR-7000 Weather Radar – Honeywell's family of advanced 3D weather radar systems for air transport, business and military aircraft. IntuVue Weather Radar provides reduced pilot workload and increased situational awareness of weather, resulting in improved routing around hazards and increased safety that is superior to 2D radars.
  • Next-generation flight management systems (NGFMS) – An FMS provides the primary navigation, flight planning, and optimized route determination and enroute guidance for an aircraft. With a completely redesigned architecture, the NGFMS software was built to utilize a modular design that allows for aircraft-specific adjustments in hardware, operating systems, input/output (IO) and other features.
  • HTF7000 engine series – The HTF7000 engine series are business jet propulsion systems well-known in the industry for their reliability, durability, and maintainability.
  • Honeywell's JetWave and JetWave MCX – Honeywell's JetWave provides in-flight Wi-Fi that is fast, reliable, and available anytime, anywhere and at any altitude. The JetWave MCX system delivers the world's most advanced high-speed satcom capabilities for demanding military missions and is built on the proven, high-speed JetWave technology.
  • Aspire 350 and 400 – The Aspire suite of satellite communication offerings provides in-flight connectivity for business aviation, airlines and helicopters — anywhere in the world.

Honeywell has no plans to retire the Boeing 757 test plane and says it will continue to push the aviation industry's technical boundaries, allowing airline passengers to have a safer and more comfortable travel experience.

This is the story of a one-of-a-kind test aircraft that has been at the forefront of technological advances in the aviation industry.
Honeywell's Boeing 757 testbed. Photo: Darryl Sarno/Airways

Comments from Honeywell Aerospace

"For the past 17 years, we have made so many technological modifications to our beloved 757 test aircraft that the only thing turning 40 years old is likely the fuselage itself," said Captain Joe Duval, director, Flight Test Operations, Honeywell Aerospace.

"We're among a select few pilots in the industry who have the responsibility to push an aircraft close to its limits. We've intentionally flown into nasty storms to test our radars, and we've flown toward more mountains than I can count to test our ground proximity warning systems. Our 757 has been the dependable workhorse that allows us to test a whole slew of technologies, including the engines we produce for business jets and smaller aircraft."

Featured image: Honeywell Aerospace - N757HW - Boeing 757-200. Photo: Julian Schöpfer/Airways