While much of the aviation industry is at a complete standstill, Boeing’s 777X test program is still progressing. The second 777X aircraft, designated WH002, joined the program on Thursday with its maiden flight from Boeing’s Everett factory to Seattle’s Boeing Field.
2 hours 58 minutes
In a statement issued on Thursday, Boeing announced that the second 777X aircraft, out of a fleet of four, had joined the model’s testing program. The new widebody plane took off from the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, a little before midday. After a trip around Washington state, it landed 2 hours and 58 minutes later at Seattle’s Boeing Field.
The plane was operated by captains Ted Grady, 777X project pilot, and Van Chaney, 777X chief pilot. The aircraft is fitted with an array of equipment, sensors, and monitoring devices throughout the cabin. These allow crew on board to monitor and document the plane’s response to the test conditions in real-time.
The second #777X jet has completed its first flight. One of four dedicated flight test airplanes, WH002 is testing handling characteristics as part of our rigorous test program. pic.twitter.com/h0zRBe82FA
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) April 30, 2020
So far, the first aircraft in the program, N779XW, has over 100 hours of test flying under its wings. These have been operated at a variety of speeds, altitudes, and system settings.
Enough to demonstrate airworthiness, which has allowed the airline to add personnel to monitor the test results on board and in flight, rather than only relying on ground-based readings. Having engineers actually in the air permits for testing at greater distances.
When the test fleet is complete, it will consist of four 777Xs. Boeing provided no details as to when the final two are to join the flock.
Flights resumed merely a week ago
The first aircraft in the testing program was back in the sky on the 23rd of April, following a one-month hiatus as all the company’s Seattle activity was halted. The very first flight took place only a few months earlier on the 25th of January. Boeing is focusing first on the certification for the larger of the Xs, the 777-9, and will then move on to the 777-8.
A smidgeon of good news
It is nice to hear some positive news from Boeing in general, other than the dismal first-quarter results with losses of $641 million. And for the 777X program in particular, which has had set-back upon set-back since its launch in November 2013. Not least the recent news that Boeing will slow down the production rate of the 777X, as well as its older sibling, the 777.
With a backlog of just over 300 airplanes for the 777X, a combined slowed production rate could mean some customers will be waiting over a decade for their new widebodies to arrive. Something they may not be all that upset about at the moment. With no sure way as of yet to determine when demand for long-haul air travel will have bounced back to pre-corona levels, perhaps a few long-range jets less with costly maintenance in the fleet will not be any significant loss?
Nevertheless, it is exciting to have the 777X, touted as the “most efficient twin-engine jet, unmatched in every aspect of performance” back on its certification track. Let us hope that there will be no more hiccups, or, world-altering events for that matter, along the way, and the intended delivery of the first 777X to an airline (Lufthansa being first in line) will still stand for 2021. And that there will be demand enough to fill it with passengers.
Are you excited to fly the 777X once air travel is back to somewhat of its usual self? Let us know your thoughts on this new model from Boeing and its progress in the comments.