Boeing’s state of the art 777X is edging towards its first flight. The aircraft was launched six years ago and has endured several production delays during that time. But, in a bit of good news for the beleaguered aircraft manufacturer, the 777X looks to be on track to make its first flight early in 2020.
Problems with GE9X engines set maiden flight back in 2019
In late May 2019, tests found durability problems with the stator vanes in the second stage of the 777X’s GE9X engine’s high-pressure compressor. The stator vanes are designed to slow airflow and ramp up the pressure. But when the GE9X engines were tested earlier this year, exhaust temperature was exceeding the design limits and the stator vanes were deteriorating quicker than expected.
The June 2019 maiden flight for the 777X was delayed and the engines were recalled by General Electric. The upgraded engines were returned to Boeing in October. Along with solving the stator vane issue, GE made some additional design alterations to improve the GE9X engine.
But things are back on track with the 777X
A report in Airline Ratings yesterday, 17 December 2019, confirms that the upgraded GE9X engines are being installed on 777X aircraft at Paine Field Airport in Everett, WA. A Boeing spokesperson told Simple Flying;
“We continue to progress on our pre-flight testing, focusing on final systems, propulsion and airplane-level tests. On the static airplane test results, our detailed analysis of the data is progressing well. What we’ve seen to date reinforces our prior assessment that this will not have a significant impact on the design or our preparations for the first flight.
“The GE9X engine remains the pacing item as we work towards first flight. GE, our engine supplier, has made good progress to address the durability challenges. GE has installed retrofit components in the certification test engines, and testing has restarted.”
Boeing told Simple Flying yesterday that they expect the first 777X flight to take place in early 2020. However, the manufacturer declined to be more specific than that. But they did say, contingent on a variety of factors, that they would welcome any improvements in that timeline.
Boeing expects first 777X aircraft to be delivered in 2021
Boeing has 309 orders for the 777X, the initial orders stretching back to 2013. The 777X will come in two variations, the 777-8 and the 777-9. The aircraft famously (or infamously) lost out to Airbus last week when Qantas elected to go with the A350-1000 for their Project Sunrise aircraft. But at least nine airlines are taking the 777X, including Emirates who have 115 on order.
The problem, as such, for Boeing is that there is a strong preference towards the 777-9 amongst its customers. The 777-9 has the potential to become a true globe-trotting aircraft with a range of 13,500 kilometres and, depending on how airlines choose to configure the plane, the potential to carry up to 426 passengers.
Boeing says its passengers will notice the spacious, wide cabin, new custom architecture and innovations from the 787 Dreamliner (such as the bigger windows). Boeing also says the 777X will deliver 10 per cent lower fuel use and emissions and 10 per cent lower operating costs than comparable aircraft from Airbus.
Despite the problems and delays besetting the 777X, the aircraft has enough selling points to see a clutch of premium long haul airlines like Etihad, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, and ANA line up to take it.
Boeing remains confident the first delivery of the 777X will be in 2021.