Boeing Delays Its Ultra Long Range 777-8 Program

Boeing has decided to delay its ultra-long-range 777X variant, the 777-8, as the firm deals with the 737 MAX fallout and problems with the bigger 777-9 program.

777x engine
The GE9X is one of the major elements delaying the 777X program. Photo: Dan Nevill via Wikimedia Commons

What are the details?

On Wednesday, Boeing announced that it was pushing back the launch of it’s Boeing 777-8 aircraft to focus on the bigger Boeing 777-9 project, as reported by Jon Ostrower from the Air Current. The 777-8 was originally supposed to enter service two years after the 777-9, in 2022.

“We reviewed our development program schedule and the needs of our current 777X customers and decided to adjust the schedule,” – Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman to the Air Current.

At this time Boeing has not made clear how long the new delay will be.

The Boeing 777-8 is the smaller variant of the next-generation 777X program with the bigger 777-9 due to be launched in 2020. The 777-9 was supposed to start test flights this year, but problems with the General Electric GE9X engines (also new as part of the development of this aircraft) have delayed testing.

Boeing has assured customers that these delays would not affect the delivery timeline (although airlines like Lufthansa who were expecting to take delivery of their first 777-9 in December have already taken contingency steps). Boeing has been quick to point out that they are still entirely committed to the Boeing 777-8 and that customers looking at the option, such as Qantas, need not worry.

“The adjustment reduces risk in our development program, ensuring a more seamless transition to the 777-8. We continue to engage with our current and potential customers on how we can meet their fleet needs. This includes our valued customer Qantas.” – Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman.

Qantas is looking for an aircraft to complete the daunting Sydney to London (and perhaps to New York) direct flight. The Boeing 777-8 with its proposed range of .8,690 nmi / 16,090 km fits the bill (an additional 2,000 km more than the bigger 777-9).

With the delays to the 777-8 program, however, Qantas might be tempted to order the Airbus competitor A350-1000ULR rumored to be an equal match to the 777-8, in order to get this new route to market as quickly as possible (and with a load factor of 94% on their first Australia to Europe direct route why wouldn’t you). It is further rumored that Boeing has made a ‘compelling offer’ to Qantas ease delay concerns.

Boeing Delays Its Ultra Long Range 777-8 Program
Qantas currently operates a 17-hour non-stop flight from Perth to London using the Boeing 787-9.
Photo: Wikimedia

What about other issues at Boeing?

Delays to the Boeing 777-9 are not the only issues that are affecting the 777-8 program. Boeing is also still dealing with the 737 MAX disaster, as the grounding of their new flag-ship narrowbody type enters its sixth month.

Boeing 737 MAX
The 737 MAX has now been grounded for six months. Photo: Boeing

Boeing has yet to present a fix for the aircraft system to the FAA and IATA and will be expected to shell out a colossal amount of money to affected airlines and those with delayed deliveries. The manufacturer continues to build the planes in their Washington factory but is unable to deliver any products until given the all-clear by the international aviation community.

Additionally, Boeing is also facing quality problems with the Boeing 787 as their non-unionised South Carolina plant has issues in the Dreamliner production line.

What do you think of this delay? Let us know in the comments.