The latest widebody from Boeing, the 777X, is due to enter service in 2022. With the most powerful engines to date, the largest capacity of any twin-engine jet, and efficient long-range operation, it promises a lot. It is a competitive battle with Airbus, but the 777X will undoubtedly be an appealing aircraft for all long-haul airlines, bringing significant possible changes to their operations.
Introducing the Boeing 777X
The Boeing 777 has been the best selling widebody aircraft to date. But 25 years after its launch, it is due for a replacement, and it’s no surprise that Boeing is updating it rather than introducing a new model. The Boeing 777X has made test flights in 2020, and it is due to enter service in 2022.
There will be two versions of the 777X, the 777-9, and the smaller 777-8, with a third option for an ultra-long-range model not currently planned. The 777-9 stretches the fuselage of the 777-300ER to over 76 meters in length, offering a passenger capacity of up to 426 (in a two-class configuration, according to Boeing data). But it is far more than just an updated 777 aircraft.
More power, but efficient operation
The 777X uses new General Electric GE9X engines. These are the largest and most powerful commercial engines ever built. They are bigger than a 737 fuselage and will deliver 105,000 lb/f of thrust.
Despite the increased size, these engines are lighter than the GE90 engines on the 777 (mainly due to fewer fan blades and use of carbon fiber composite materials). And overall, the 777X is around 20% more efficient than the 777-300ER and about 10% more efficient (both in fuel use and operating cost) than its Airbus competitor, the A350-1000 (according to Boeing data).
High range, and ability to operate at more airports
A signature addition to the 777X is its folding wingtips. The 777X has a huge wingspan of 71.75 meters, which helps its efficiency but can limit its operation at airports. The solution is to make the wingtips fold up when on the ground. Doing this reduces the wingspan to just under 65 meters, around the same as the 777.
This keeps the 777X in the second largest of the six groups defined by FAA’s Airplane Design Group (ADG). One of the main problems faced by the Airbus A380 has been it’s categorization in the largest group, and the limitations this has placed on the airports where it can operate.
Its range, too, will place it well against the competing Airbus A350, and the now retiring Boeing 747. For the 777-9, this is 13,500 kilometers, and for the later to launch 777-8, it will be 16,170 kilometers.
New freighter option could be coming
Although there are no official plans for a freighter version of the 777X, it may be developed. This would be an excellent boost for the aircraft and likely popular with many airlines.
Boeing very much dominates the freighter market with its 747 and 777 freighters. With these aging, and missing out on the technology and efficiency upgrades of new passenger aircraft, there is strong potential for an update. There is certainly space in the market. Boeing claims that an additional 1,040 widebody freighters will be needed in the coming 20 years.
Boeing has discussed in the past the possibility of basing a freighter version on the 777-8 airframe, and Qatar Airways has expressed interest in becoming the launch customer (at the Pairs Airshow in 2019).
Is the 777X destined for great things?
With efficiency claims amongst the top of all widebody aircraft, and range and capacity, making it an alternative option for all but the highest capacity A380, the 777X could be set for great things. For Boeing operators, it makes a potential replacement for 777 and 747 fleets. If its efficiency lives up to its claims, it will compete well against the A350 (Simple Flying looked at this further in a previous article).
A quick look at sales and orders shows early success. Up to April 2020, 309 777X aircraft had been ordered (according to Boeing data). With the slowdown in the aviation market in 2020, Boeing will slow the production of these, delivery of the airframe was due to start in 2021, but this has since been delayed until at least 2022.
This is a solid start for an aircraft that is yet to enter service, and it could be boosted further if a freighter version is developed. In comparison, the latest Boeing 747 model, the 747-8, has only 47 passenger and 107 freighter orders.
Its main competitor, the Airbus A350, is ahead in orders, but also has been available longer. According to Airbus data for April 2020, 760 A350-900 and 170 larger A350-1000 aircraft have been ordered.
What do you think of the Boeing 777X? Do you think it will offer great things to airlines and passengers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.