Boeing recently celebrated a major win with its Boeing 777X program, successfully flying the first prototype on January the 6th. However, Boeing actually has another three prototype Boeing 777X planes waiting to take to the skies. What are they built for and when will they fly?
What are the details?
The first Boeing 777-9, tail number WH001, flew back in January for the first time. The purpose of this flight was not only just a simple proving flight of the Boeing 777X technology but also to raise the positive press for the company as a whole.
The Boeing 777X brings to the table three new main technologies. A new composite wing with folding wingtips; Boeing 787 Dreamliner technology; and super huge GE9X engines that have almost the same diameter as a Boeing 737!
An impressive aircraft indeed and one that will require plenty of testing before it enters active service. However, Boeing is not only building one prototype, but four.
What are the different roles of the Boeing 777Xs?
Each of the four 777-9s has a different designation and a different key role in the testing process.
According to Flight Global, they are:
- WH001 – The first 777-9 to test electronics, taxi tests, and first flight. After the first flight, the aircraft will be used to double-check avionics and related system, brakes, flutter, icing, stability, control, and low-speed aerodynamics post flying.
- WH002 – Being built to test auto-landing, ground effects, stability, and controls.
- WH003 – Following the 2nd 777X flight, will be used to test auxiliary power unit, avionics, flight loads and propulsion performance.
- WH004 – Testing environmental control system, extended twin-engine operations, noise, and general functionality and reliability. Likely this aircraft will start to be outfitted with cabin technologies.
Each aircraft is also capable in its own right for all the other tasks but just aimed specifically at those testing aspects. These aircraft will be used for certification, building up flight hours in order to prove the reliability and safety of the aircraft. This process is estimated to take up to a year to do. To help speed it along, Boeing intends to say that the Boeing 777X is a derivative of the 777 and not a whole new aircraft.
Technically all four have also been built to test manufacturing at the Boeing factory and work out kinks in 777-9 production line.
After WH004, Boeing is expected to begin the main series production and roll out the type to clients. The existing four prototypes may be rolled into active service and fitted out with passenger cabins. It is believed that Lufthansa’s first Boeing 777X is one of these aircraft.
When will the next 777X take flight?
The hot question is when will this second 777X take to the skies?
According to Boeing, it will be in the 2nd Quarter of this year. This would be between April and June and would see all three aircraft take to the skies before the summer is over.
But Boeing has been cautious and doesn’t want to reveal any specific timeline just yet.
“We’re taking the lessons learned from the 737 Max and applying them to the 777X to ensure we are as prepared as possible for 777X certification,” Boeing says to Flight Global. “Given the unknowns around development programs, as well as the certification process, we do not want to be overly specific about hours of testing or timing.”
If all goes to plan, we should be flying in the 777-9 next year.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to the aircraft? Let us know in the comments.