Foremost aircraft manufacturer-Boeing Commercial Airplanes dazzled global aviation last Monday when it carried out test flight on its latest machine-Boeing 777X.
The aircraft is the world’s largest twin-engine plane designed to carry 426 passengers in a two-class cabin configuration.
The manufacturer said the aircraft will revolutionise long-haul travel by making flights more fuel-efficient. It has a unique folding wingtip technology, which makes the aircraft more airport-friendly.
The plane, which is 77m (252ft) long, took off from a runway just outside Seattle on the United States (US) West Coast. Four hours later, it landed at the historic Boeing Field, not far from rows of 737MAX planes grounded after two fatal crashes triggered safety concerns.
Produced since 2017, it took the company three attempts to get Boeing 777X off the ground as the first two planned test were abandoned.
The 777X is a larger and more efficient version of Boeing’s successful 777 mini-jumbos. Standout features include folding wingtips and the world’s largest commercial engines.
“It represents the great things we can do as a company,” said 777X Marketing Director Wendy Sowers.
Boeing said it has sold 309 of the plane – worth more than $442 million each at list prices.
The plane will go head-to-head with the Airbus A350-, which seats about 360 passengers.
Likely to jolt competition in the technologically driven air transport sector, the Boeing 777X is coming at a time the Boeing Company is exploring strategies to boost its image after its Boeing 737-800Max was grounded on account of two crashes involving Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines where over 346 persons died. It has a range of 7,285 nautical miles with a fuselage that’s 251 feet, 9 inches long and a wingspan of 238 ft., 10 inches that include the unique folding wing tips which give the aircraft a distinct advantage. Each 12 feet long, allow the aircraft to operate at the same Code E airport span limit as the smaller A350 and Boeing 777 aircraft.
The 777X will introduce a number of passenger experience improvements, including higher and larger 162 square inch windows. By comparison, the windows on the existing Boeing 777 are 140 square inches while the ones on the Airbus A350 are 125 square inches.
The larger windows will not only give passengers a better view of the skies, but also let in more natural light enhancing the sense of space on board and contributing to passenger well-being. They will also be dimmable; a popular feature first introduced by Boeing on the 787 Dreamliner aircraft, and will include a special film coating that will keep out infrared and ultraviolet rays.
Following the successful maiden voyage, Boeing Executive Stan Deal said: “It’s a proud day for us. It made all of our employees proud one more time of who we are and what we get to do, by flying a brand-new aeroplane that is going to change the world one more time.”
Boeing’s new 777X is expected to enter service in 2021, with development issues. This means that this is a year later than planned. Each plane is worth $442 million (£338 million).
More than 300 of the planes have already been sold and the jet is expected to compete with the A350-1000, a new offering by rival Airbus. It gets a bit muddy from there, with Emirates telling Flight Global that it’s still expecting 126 777X aircraft in all as “future deliveries”.
In stormy conditions, Boeing needs a big win. Today’s successful take-off is a positive leap forward, reassuring customers that the programme is back on track and giving employees something to cheer about.
Boeing has orders for 309 777X aircraft on the books from eight announced airlines and unidentified customers.
The published list of customers include: All Nippon Airways (ANA) with an order for 20 aircraft; British Airways (18); Cathay Pacific (21); Emirates (115); Etihad Airways (25); Lufthansa (20); Qatar Airways (60) and Singapore Airlines (20). Emirates’ commitment was for 150 of the aircraft type, but following engine-related delays, it reduced the order to 126 at the last year’s Dubai Air Show, taking 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners instead.
In December, as Flight Global reported, the order was adjusted down again. Emirates said 11 of the original 777X aircraft on order were subject to reconfirmation.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would not grant clearance for the planes before 2020.
All versions of the 737MAX were grounded worldwide in March, days after an Ethiopian Airlines plane came down outside Addis Ababa, and five months after a Lion Air flight suffered a similar fate near Indonesia. Boeing has been working with US regulators to ensure the planes are safe – with modifications focusing on an anti-stall device called the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) in the hope of returning the 737MAX to service.
Further tests are needed before the aircraft enters service with Emirates next year.
It is attempting to have the plane re-approved for flight.
The grounding of the 737Max, which had been Boeing’s best-selling plane, is estimated to have already cost Boeing more than $9 billion.
Regulatory hurdles do lie ahead for the 777X, which will be the first major aircraft to be certified since the role of software flaws in two fatal 737MAX crashes emerged.
The Federal Aviation Administration has vowed that rigorous testing will be conducted before the plane is allowed to carry passengers – while Emirates, one of Boeing’s clients, has said the plane should be put through “hell on earth” to ensure it is safe and performs properly.