The first B777X aircraft has rolled off of the assembly line in Seattle. With deliveries set to begin in December 2019, this marks a huge step in the 777X program.
The B777X program was launched in 2013. The project aims to see Boeing launching a new version of the B777 to compete with the latest Airbus jets. The aircraft is an evolution of the classic B777 aircraft which will feature new GE9X engines, and composite wings with folding wingtips. The 777-8X is a potential candidate for non stop flights between Sydney and London, named Project Sunrise by Qantas.
First Aircraft Won’t Fly
What is interesting is that the first aircraft constructed by Boeing will never take to the skies. When aircraft are undergoing certification, the need to pass a number of static tests. That is to say tests that occur without the aircraft moving. The aircraft will be used to test loads on flight surfaces. Engineers will mimic the huge forces created during flight by applying loads to the wing, tail, fuselage and support structures. This allows the engineers to see how the aircraft responds to different forces during flight.
The B777X will have a host of new features. For starters, the new GE9X engines that will be installed are currently undergoing testing. General Electric owns a B747 which is used exclusively for engine testing. The new engine was bolted onto the aircraft before being tested during flight over the Californian Desert from Victorville.
The aircraft also has Boeing’s new folding wing tips. The folding wing tips will remove 11.5 feet from the wing on either side of the aircraft. This will make the aircraft much more manoeuvrable on the ground at airports, while maximising fuel efficiency in the air. The FAA has previously told the manufacturer “Boeing must show that, during flight, the wingtips can never be accidentally retracted, and that no subjected force can unlock the mechanisms”.
Following the static testing on this airframe, another aircraft currently being constructed will go on to become a flight test aircraft. Boeing is aiming to conduct the first flight of the B777X in Q1 of 2019. Regarding flight testing Boeing’s competitor, Airbus, says “An aircraft’s flight test campaign is designed to assess general handling qualities, operational performance, airfield noise emission and systems operation in normal mode, failure scenarios and extreme conditions”.
There have so far been 326 orders for the B777X. Just under half of those were ordered by Emirates. The remaining orders are made up by Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, All Nipon Airways, Singapore Airlines, and an unidentified customer. 53 -8 aircraft have been ordered, while 273 -9 aircraft have been ordered. Lufthansa will be the launch customer for the -9, with Etihad being the launch customer for the -8. Both aircraft have a high capacity with the -8 typically seating 365 passengers and the -9 typically seating 414 passengers.
In addition to the B777X program, Boeing has proposed a -10 aircraft. This would be an extension of the -9, including 4 extra rows of seats and accommodating 450 passengers.