Boeing 777X First Flight Delayed Until Autumn

Shocking news out of the Paris Air Show today  as GE reveal that a major redesign is needed to a part for the GE9X engines, which power the Boeing 777X. As such, the engine certification is unlikely to take place until the autumn this year, pushing back the test flight of the type by many months.

The first flight of the 777X will be further delayed. Photo: Boeing

Our excitement over the forthcoming Boeing 777X needs to be put on ice for a while longer. News coming out of day one of the Paris Air Show suggests that Boeing will now delay the first test flight of the type until the autumn.

Previously, Boeing had hoped to conduct the first test flight next week, with June 26th earmarked as a potential date. However, Boeing chiefs warned that the ‘window’ for the test flight could run into early July. Now, it seems we’ll have to wait a whole lot longer to see this big bird take to the skies.

Compressor wear

As Boeing took to the world stage to proclaim their apologies for the 737 MAX disaster, GE Aviation executives were also busy talking to the press. According to Flight Global, executives said that a redesign of a component of the GE9X’s high pressure compressor would delay the launch of the 777X much more than initially thought.

Boeing 777X
There’s been a problem with the GE9X engines of the 777X. Photo: Wikimedia

They said that a stator was wearing much faster than they thought it would, and that a redesign would be needed. As such, GE would require several months to develop and test the fixes, which could push the and certification of the engine back to the autumn this year. GE Aviation chief executive David Joyce is quoted as saying,

“We found a component inside the compressor that had more wear than we anticipated … We pushed the pause button with Boeing.”

According to Aviation Week, the problem was identified during a 150-hour endurance block test, a necessary segment of the certification process. Joyce’s colleague, vice-president and general manager of commercial engines operation Bill Fitzgerald, added further detail, saying,

“We are pretty confident we can get through the testing this year … It will be later in the fall, I think.”

Will Boeing delay the launch of the 777X?

With engine certification looking to be delayed until at least the autumn, a 2020 launch of the plane is looking increasingly unlikely. With the best will in the world, one the fixes are implemented it’s likely to take 10 to 12 months for the aircraft to be tested and certified, which would take us up until very late in 2020 before any are ready for delivery.

Lufthansa 777X
Lufthansa are already preparing for a delay. Photo: Lufthansa

While early customers are, in some cases, already anticipating a delay to delivery, it’s unlikely any were expecting quite such a lengthy delay. In an interview with the Seattle Times last weekend, Emirates president Tim Clark said that a long delay would begin to ‘squeeze his timeline’, which depends on taking delivery in June next year.

Suppliers will also be impacted, with one Japanese supplier telling the Seattle Times that ‘it might cause some problems in our factories’. Much of the fuselage panels for the 777X are manufactured in Japan.

Despite this surprising news, Boeing are steadfast in their delivery plans. They have reiterated that the 777X will begin delivering next year although, clearly, we’ll be looking towards the back end of next year at least.