Emirates President: Boeing 777X Program ‘In A State Of Disarray’

Speaking to Simple Flying on Wednesday, Emirates President Sir Tim Clark commented that the Boeing 777X program is “in a state of disarray”. Clark made the comments when warning that Boeing may not deliver the first Emirates 777X until as late as 2025. The comments come the same week that rival CEO Akbar Al Baker of Qatar said he expects three 777Xs in 2023.

Bottom up shot of a Boeing 777X passing overhead
Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said the Boeing 777X program was “in a state of disarray”. Photo: Getty Images

It’s fair to say that the Boeing 777X project hasn’t entirely gone how the American aerospace giant would’ve hoped. The initial plans were for the first aircraft of the new model to be delivered last summer. However, the aircraft indeed missed its debut at the 2019 Paris Air Show and didn’t take to the skies until early last year. Now a cascade of delays means that the official first delivery is expected sometime in 2023.

A program ‘in a state of disarray”

For most of us, the extent known about the Boeing 777X program is what is made public, mainly from official releases from Boeing. However, one person who is pretty involved with the program is Emirates President Sir Tim Clark. Clark is the leader of the program’s biggest customer. Emirates currently has 115 unfilled orders for the 777X.

Speaking to Simple Flying earlier this week, Sir Tim told Simple Flying,

“I did have an engagement  a couple of weeks ago with the head of Boeing civil Stan Deal. We were discussing mainly things around the 777 programme, which is in a state of disarray at the moment… Now, not being able to factor in the 777-9, or -8 at this stage is a little bit of a problem, so we had to have a conversation with them.”

Emirates, Boeing 777X, 2024
Emirates’ President suggested that its first 777X delivery could slip as far as 2025. Photo: Boeing

What’s been the cause of the Boeing 777X delay?

The Boeing 777X delay is not one big issue but a handful of different, more minor problems combined to create a lengthy wait. Initially, the aircraft’s first flight was delayed due to issues with the jet’s enormous GE9X engines. According to FlightGlobal, the engine’s testing program was brought to a halt because of problems with stator vanes in the high-pressure compressor.

The delay meant that the first flight of the 777X was significantly delayed, and the aircraft was unable to be debuted at the last Paris Air Show as expected. The aircraft eventually took its first flight in January 2020. Four test aircraft are currently undergoing testing of the type before its certification.

However, when Boeing announcing the aircraft’s delay to 2023 earlier this year, it mentioned that part of this was due to an updated assessment of the certification requirements expected for the jet. Nonetheless, it seems as though the current situation affecting the industry is also partially to blame. Continued dialogue with customers was said to have resulted in adjustments to production rates.

British Airways, Boeing 777X, Deliveries
The Boeing 777X didn’t take its first flight until January 2020. Photo: Boeing

Commenting on the 777X program, a Boeing spokesperson told Simple Flying,

“We’re working closely with global regulators on all aspects of 777X development, including our rigorous test program. Our team remains focused on executing this comprehensive series of tests and conditions to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the airplane’s design. It is diligent, deliberate work and we are pleased with the progress to date. We also are providing regular updates to our launch customers.”

Which airlines have orders for the 777X?

According to Boeing’s latest order book, at least eight customers have orders for the latest generation of the 777X, with 320 individual airframes between them. As mentioned, Emirates is by far the largest customer, with 36% of total orders for the program (115).

The customers expecting to take delivery of the aircraft are,

  1. Emirates (115)
  2. Qatar Airways (60)
  3. Singapore Airlines (31)
  4. Etihad Airways (25)
  5. Cathay Pacific (21)
  6. All Nippon Airways (20)
  7. Lufthansa (20)
  8. British Airways (18)
  9. Unidentified Customers (10)
Boeing, 777X, orders
British Airways made the smallest and most recent 777X order. Photo: Boeing

It seems slightly unclear who will take delivery of the first Boeing 777X. According to an Aeronautics article from 2017, Emirates was confirmed as its launch customer by a Boeing official. However, more recently, it had been understood that Lufthansa would be taking the first 777X.

The story changed again slightly yesterday. In a recent comment given by the Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, the executive suggested that he had become the launch customer of the type. Al Baker commented,

“Qatar Airways is also the launch customer of the Boeing 777X aircraft… We will take the 777X whenever it is ready, as soon as it is ready… In the year 2023 we will receive our first three 777X aircraft.”

Qatar Airways Boeing 777X
Qatar Airway’s CEO said his airline is the launch customer of the Boeing 777X. Photo: Boeing

What’s new about the Boeing 777X?

According to Boeing, the 777X will be the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet. Boeing is developing two submodels of the 777X. The first is the 777-9, which is currently undergoing testing. According to the company, this comes with a list price of $442.2 million and can seat up to 426 in a two-class configuration. Its fuselage is 76.72 meters long. For comparison, the giant Airbus A380 is 72.7m long.

The second model to be produced by Boeing will be the 777-8. This comes complete with a list price of $410.2 million and will seat up to 384 in a two-class configuration. The plane is shorter than its bigger sibling at 69.79m. However, what it lacks in length, it makes up for in range. According to Boeing, the 777-8 will fly 8,730 nautical miles, compared to the 7,285 nautical miles of the -9.

Both of the jets will come with folding wingtips. These allow the plane to increase its wingspan while flying. However, it can taxi in more confined spaces with the wingtips folded. This means that airports won’t need to make modifications to it. Each wingtip is around 3.5 meters long.

Boeing 777X & 737 MAX Seattle Getty
The 777X’s engines are wider than the 737’s fuselage. Photo: Getty Images

As mentioned, both types will be powered by the impressive GE9X engine. Each is wider than the Boeing 737’s fuselage. According to GE, this has a 5% improved fuel consumption than any other twin-aisle engine available. This makes the engine GE’s most fuel-efficient jet engine ever. However, it is also the quietest engine ever produced by the company.

What do you make of the Boeing 777X program? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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