In a big milestone for the program, Boeing officially started production on its new 777x line on Oct. 23. The 777X will feature new GE9X engines, an all-new composite wing with folding tips, longer range, while leveraging technologies from the 787 Dreamliner.
777X chief project engineer and vice president Terry Beezhold said it’s taken Boeing seven years to get to this point in the project. The current project schedule calls for the first test flight to happen in the first quarter of 2019, and the first delivery about a year after that.
The new plane includes combining “lots of 777 heritage with 787 heritage,” Beezhold said. “We scalloped the frames to make the fuselage wider than the -300ER for comfortable 10-abreast seating.”
The 777x’s empennage is also of a new design, and includes a 787-style one-piece rudder. The supply chain will be spread out in a similar manner to that of the 787, he said, with the wing being built in-house, fuselage tubes built in Japan & at Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kansas, and wing leading and trailing edges made at Boeing’s St. Louis plant.
Beezhold said the new plane will require less thrust than the -300ER because it will have a more efficient wing. And that wing is quite long — the 777x’s wingspan will come in at 235′ 5″ (71.8 meters). Because that’s wider than standard airport gates, the jetliner will feature a folding wingtip to reduce the span to 212′ 8″ (64.8 meters).
Beezhold explained that Boeing had developed a folding wing for the original 777, but it proved to be an overly-complicated design, as the folding portion included the aileron. The idea was shelved in favor of a traditional wing.
The 777x has a “very simple folding wingtip – the hardware is all contained within the wing,” Beezhold said, adding that airlines wanted a design that required little or no specialized maintenance.
For pilots, the new aircraft will have a common type rating with the 787, which will also simplify scheduling for airlines.
The passenger experience will also improve, he said, as the 777x includes many features from the 787: the big windows, an airy-feeling, bright cabin, etc.
The published range for the 777-8 is 8,700 nautical miles (16,110 km). The 777-9 will have a range of 7,600 nautical miles (14,075 km). Boeing says that the 777-8 competes directly with the A350-1000, while the 777-9 is in a class by itself.
We’re looking forward to flying in one early on to assess those statements for ourselves. Watch this space.