The Story Of The Boeing 777X’s Wingtips

The Boeing 777X is slowly edging towards certification, with the first deliveries currently planned for 2023. One of the unique features of the jet compared to other widebody commercial aircraft is the jet’s folding wingtips. Simple Flying was able to get up close and personal with the 777X at the recent Dubai Airshow, including the new wingtips.

Boeing, 777X, Inside
The 777X features folding wingtips. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

If you saw a Boeing 777X flying overhead, you wouldn’t think much of its wings. However, the tips on the wings stick out like a shark’s fin out of the water on the ground after the jet has landed.

A space-saving measure

The Boeing 777X’s folding wingtips are a space-saving measure. When Simple Flying caught up with one of the 777X’s test pilots, Brian Carlisle, at the recent Dubai Airshow, he revealed that when the wings are folded, the aircraft falls into the same size category as existing 777 aircraft.

Read more: Guided Tour: Inside The Boeing 777-9 Test Aircraft

If the wingtips didn’t fold, the jet would have a wingspan equivalent to the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380. This would mean significant challenges for the plane at smaller airports. Even airports such as London Gatwick, which will soon regularly welcome the Airbus A380 once more, can only handle it at a handful of gates.

Boeing 777X, Freighter, Emirates
You wouldn’t necessarily notice the aircraft has folding wingtips when flying. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

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Safety built-in

The Boeing 777X is designed to be familiar to those already flying the 777 families. However, Carlisle said that pilots looking to fly the jet would need to undergo level D simulator training to bring them up to speed with changes to the aircraft, such as the heads-up display (which is optional in the 777X) and the new folding wingtips.

Carlisle revealed that it is possible to set the wingtips to automatically retract once the aircraft drops below 50 knots while landing, with the folding process taking around 20 seconds. The plane won’t automatically unfold the wingtips before take-off, though, with the task falling to the pilots.

777X at DAS
Pilots can set the wingtips to fold upon landing automatically. Photo: Tom Boon | Simple Flying

Of course, Boeing is well aware of this and had built several safety mechanisms into the aircraft to stop it from taking off with the wingtips still folded. Carlisle explains that it starts with the standard operating procedures developed by the airline using the plane,

“Your airline will develop a standard operating procedure… We’re holding number one and we start to take a runway, we’ll get a message saying checklist incomplete, meaning that we didn’t do the before takeoff checklist because the wings are still [folded]… We’ll continue down the runway and start to add power… We get a takeoff configuration warning.”

Carlisle added,

“This aircraft goes to 50 knots, now it is going to give you a reject[ed takeoff]”

What do you make of the Boeing 777X’s folding wingtips? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!