Why The Range Of The Boeing 777-200LR Was Too Long

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The Boeing 777-200LR is one of the longest range aircraft in the world at 8,555 nautical miles (15,843 km), even longer than the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. But despite being ahead of its time and destined to operate incredible routes, the aircraft never really became successful… because of its long-range focus.

Boeing 777-200LR
The Boeing 777-200LR was not very successful for Boeing. Photo: Getty Images

What was the Boeing 777-200LR?

The Boeing 777-200LR was a further advancement of the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, a step down from the bigger and more popular Boeing 777-300.

Boeing envisioned the aircraft to be configured to carry 301 passengers in three cabins, with 16 in first class, 58 business class and 227 in the economy cabin. The aircraft could fly up to 440 in a single class, dense cabin configuration, to a range of 8,555 nautical miles or 15,843 km thanks to its impressive fuel capacity.

The aircraft also had the advantage of only two engines compared to its rival and similarly ranged Airbus A340-500. Whilst the latter could operate over remote oceans thanks to ETOPS restrictions, the 777-200LR burned far less fuel.

On paper, the aircraft was perfectly designed to fly from New York to Singapore and many other long-haul destinations (and perhaps even the Sydney to New York route that Qantas is trying to fly today).

However, despite early sales to a few airlines, only 60 of the type were ever actually built (with one order still unfilled today to Turkmenistan Airlines).

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Emirates
Emirates operates a Boeing 777-200LR between Dubai and Mexico with a stopover in Barcelona. Photo: Emirates

Why was the Boeing 777-200LR unsuccessful?

The Boeing 777-200LR is an amazing aircraft. But in real life, it failed to live up to expectations. Why? The main reason is its very well known design feature: its long range.

The aircraft tackled the problem of long-haul international routes by filling the aircraft with big fuel tanks rather than highly efficient engines and aerodynamics. Big fuel tanks mean that the aircraft is not only heavy to fly but, thanks to rising fuel prices, also rather expensive to operate. Airlines who had the type found that they had trouble starting ultra-long-haul routes due to the amount of fuel required, and relegated the aircraft to smaller, less dense, shorter routes.

As the aircraft was not that cheap to operate on shorter routes than the Airbus A330, or later the Boeing 787, airlines who had not ordered the type were less inclined to purchase it.

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Qantas will be using a modified A350-1000 for its Project Sunrise flights to connect Sydney to London. Photo: Qantas

Then, when the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-1000 were created (both have excellent ranges that are in the ballpark of the Boeing 777-200LR but with a much-reduced fuel burn) Boeing found itself with a white elephant project.

Essentially, airlines that want to operate long-haul routes might as well order an aircraft that can also efficiently fill medium routes as well, focusing on less fuel burn per seat over bigger fuel tanks.

What do you think? Do you like the Boeing 777-200LR? Let us know in the comments.

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