While transcontinental flights over the US are commonplace, to see a ten-hour flight, you usually need to travel from Hawaii to the East Coast. However, on Monday, one of Boeing’s four 777X’s took off from Arizona, traveled across another 16 states, and then landed back again. The journey, part of the aircraft’s testing program, took just under ten hours.
After delays with production, the test program for Boeing’s 777X is now full speed ahead. A week ago, the fourth aircraft took to the skies for the first time, on route to carrying passengers in 2022. Yesterday, one of the 777-9s participating in the program completed the aircraft’s longest flight to date.
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There and back again
Flight N779XX took off from Yuma International Airport (NYL) in Arizona on Monday, September 28th, at 13:22 local time. It flew eastwards over New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, before turning north, crossing over Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
It then turned back westwards over Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington before heading back down south over Oregon and California. The new giant airplane landed safely back on the ground in Arizona, nine hours and 58 minutes later, at 23:20.
The aircraft reached a top speed of 643 mph while at 39,000 feet above Missouri/Illinois. A little later, just as it crossed into Montana, it climbed to 41,000 feet, where it maintained a speed of between 500 and 564 mph.
It is yet unclear how many crew and test personnel were on the unusual US domestic long-haul, and what systems were being checked.
At Yuma since Thursday
The plane first arrived at Yuma Airport, a joint-use civilian and military airfield, on Thursday, September 24th. Since then, it has taken to the skies no less than five times, including Monday’s across-and-back-again over the North American continent. The previous flights out of Yuma have hovered around the one hour mark, apart from a flight on Sunday that lasted two hours and 12 minutes.
Engines are go
Just yesterday, the Federal Aviation Agency issued the crucial certification for the GE9X engines, specially built for the 777X. The engines, the largest and most powerful ever to be mounted on a commercial airframe, have now undergone 5,000 hours of testing. This, naturally, is a huge step forward for the plans to enter the plane into service with launch customer Lufthansa in 2022.
What do you think Boeing was testing with this long flight over so many states? Is the flight connected to the engine certification? Let us know your ideas in the comments.