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Boeing Completes First 777X Flight in Everett, Wash.
After years of design, testing, set-backs to overcome and a few last-minute weather delays, Saturday was the day aviation saw the Boeing 777X take to the skies for the first time. Marking a new era for what has been a turbulent period in Boeing’s history.
N779XW, a 777-9 variant, took off from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. at 10.00 a.m. local time and conducted a flight test lasting four hours and four minutes. Plans for the first flight were shelved two days in a row due to unsuitable weather conditions for the first test flight.
This milestone is the latest step as the 777X becomes the newest variant of the Boeing 777 series, first taking to the skies in 1994. Following today’s flight, a rigorous test program will take place with the intention of the airframe beginning commercial service in 2021, two years later than originally planned.
The decision to create another variant of the highly successful wide-body airliner was made at the beginning of the last decade in response to the Airbus A350XWB. Today, Boeing claims the 777X will be the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet delivering 10 percent lower fuel use, emissions and operating costs than the competition.
To achieve this, Boeing spent time and money redeveloping the wing used by the 787. The end product is a longer composite wing measuring 235 feet (69.8m) equipped with 11 feet (3.5 m) folding wingtips allowing the new airframe to remain in the same size category as its predecessors.
The new feature gained special approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after successfully demonstrating its handling qualities, load limits and the ability to notify crew when incorrectly positioned. The folding wingtip should be able to change position within 20 seconds.
Two General Electric GE9X high-bypass turbofan engines with a 10:1 bypass ratio will deliver up to 105,000lbs of thrust, with a fan diameter of 134 in (340 cm) it is the largest fan ever produced by GE.
The efficiencies gained by a larger wing and a more powerful engine will result in a range of approximately 8,730 nautical miles for the 777-8 and 7,285 nm for the bigger 777-9. Both will have a maximum takeoff weight of 775,000 lb (351,543 kg) compared to 696,661 lb (316 t) provided by the Airbus A350-1000.
So far Boeing has 340 total commitments for the 777X. Emirates, already the largest 777-300ER operator, is expected to receive the first of 126 ordered from 2021 onwards. Lufthansa was originally down as the launch customer following an order of 34 777-9s back in 2013, but has since amended its fleet requirement to 20 firm orders with an option of 14 more following a fleet plan review.
Making up the remaining numbers are Qatar Airways with 60 orders, Etihad with 25, British Airways with 24, Cathay Pacific with 21, All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airlines both with 20 and 10 to unidentified customers.
Today’s achievement will bring a sigh of relief to many within the company hierarchy after what had been arguably one of the worst years in Boeing history.
The main aim of Boeing is still to fix, certify and then restore confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX series. Two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 killed all 346 onboard and resulted in the mass grounding of 387 737 MAXs in service awaiting recertification by regulators.
The handling of the MAX grounding not only cost Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job but also brought the airframe’s safety into question as well as the ethics and practices conducted by Boeing employees and aviation regulators.
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