Meet The Aircraft That Will Be The Backbone Of Longhaul Travel

Saturday 25th January 2020 saw the Boeing 777X take to the skies for the first time.

After a few aborted starts, most notably 24 hours previously when the planned first flight was cancelled due to bad weather, the new aircraft made a trouble free 3h51m test flight.

The 777X flew beautifully, and today’s testing was very productive. Thank you to all the teams who made today possible. I can’t wait to go fly your airplane again.

Capt. Van Chaney, 777/777X chief pilot for Boeing Test & Evaluation
Boeing 777X WH001 makes its first flight at Paine Field in Everett, Washington on January 25, 2020.

With the current generation 777 being one of the more successful long haul airliners out there, there’s no reason to expect the new generation won’t be an even bigger success.

The Boeing 777

The original Boeing 777 first flew in June 1994, with the first delivery to United taking place a year later.

The 777 really gained ground when the 777-200ER deliveries started in 1997. With 422 delivered, the -200ER was the second most popular variant. However, only 10 of this variant was delivered in the 2010’s. And not a single 200ER has been delivered since 2013.

However, the most popular variant, the -300ER entered service a decade later when Air France took delivery. The -300ER was widely regarded as having killed off the Boeing 747 as a passenger variant. Being able to transport a similar number of passengers at a lower cost, the airlines have bought a total of 818 777-300ER aircraft as of the end of 2019.

What’s Different To The Current 777?

Whilst the 777X may look very similar to the current 777-300ER, there are a few key differences.

The most notable feature is the folding wing tips, which is a unique feature. The original 777 was intended to have a similar feature, however Boeing decided to go with a more conventional fixed wing design instead.

Boeing included this feature this time around to enable them to increase the wingspan of the new aircraft, whist still enabling it to take up the same footprint of the current generation 777. This proved to be a headache for airports wanting to introduce Airbus A380 flights. Due to the increased wingspan of that aircraft, many modifications were needed at airports around the world.

Next up are the engines. Powered exclusively by the GE9X, the 777X will sport the largest, most powerful and fuel efficient jet engines produced to date. The GE9X is also the quietest engine that General Electric have produced.

The 777X will feature an updated flight deck in comparison to the current 777. Whilst retaining a lot in common with the current generation, the new aircraft will feature touch screen technology and will more closely resemble the companies 787 flight deck.

And As A Passenger?

From a passengers point of view, whilst the dimensions of the aircraft itself are the same as its predecessors, Boeing have introduced slimmer side walls, much like that featured on the 787. This should make the 777 a more attractive option when travelling down the back. When the 777 was first introduced, it was intended to have 9 abreast seating. And this was perfectly fine. However, airlines being airlines, they discovered a way to shoe horn in an extra seat. The end result is a pretty uncomfortable ride, as I found out. With a cabin that is 4 inches wider than its predecessor, the 10 abreast seating will hopefully be more tolerable. Assuming the airlines don’t find a way to go 11 abreast…

The windows on the 777X are larger than the previous generation, and they will also feature the next generation dimming technology compared to what’s found on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

However, the more common window shades will also be offered as an option too.

(H/T to @thatjohn and @petchmo on Twitter for the clarification and extra info on the above)

How Many 777X Variants Will There Be?

The variant of the 777X that flew on Saturday was the -9. This has proven to be the more popular variant of the 777X so far. There is a shorter, longer range -8 variant offered which is due to enter service in 2023 at the earliest. Where as the -9 is intended to replace the current 777-300ER, the -8 is viewed as a replacement for the more niche 777-200LR.

Boeing are also considering a stretched -10 variant. This could potentially seat up to 450 passengers, and could be intended as a replacement for the Airbus A380. The company has stated that if there is interest from the airlines then this stretch could be formally offered.

Who Has Ordered The 777X?

As of January 2020, a total of 309 Boeing 777X aircraft have been ordered:

All Nippon Airways
  • Japan
  • Ordered July 2014
  • 20x
ANA 777X

British Airways
  • UK
  • Ordered February 2019
  • 18x
British Airways 777X

Cathay Pacific
  • Hong Kong
  • Ordered December 2013
  • 21x
Cathay 777X

  • UAE
  • Ordered July 2014
  • 115x
Emirates 777X

Etihad Airways
  • UAE
  • Ordered November 2013
  • 15x
Etihad 777X

  • Germany
  • Ordered November 2013
  • 20x
Lufthansa 777X

Qatar Airways
  • Qatar
  • Ordered July 2014
  • 60x
Qatar 777X

Singapore Airlines
  • Singapore
  • Ordered June 2017
  • 20x
Singapore 777X

In addition to the above, there have been ten aircraft ordered by a currently undisclosed customer. Current major operators of the 777-300ER that are yet to formally announce an order for the 777X include Turkish Airlines, Air France, Air Canada and Japan Airlines. That is just pure speculation on my part though. It could very well be an airline that doesn’t operate the 777 currently. I haven’t mentioned either American or United Airlines as they have a relatively young fleet of -300ER’s, so would be unlikely to replace those any time soon.

When Will The First 777X Be Delivered?

As it stands, the first Boeing 777X is due to be delivered to Lufthansa in 2021. However, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for this to slip a little. Both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 had major delays to their initial deliveries previously.

The fact that Lufthansa is the launch customer is a curious one. The German airline haven’t previously operated the 777 in any variation, at least in passenger operations. Although Swiss, who are part of the Lufthansa group introduced the 777-300ER to their fleet in 2016.

Another airline in the Lufthansa group, Austrian Airlines, operates an ageing fleet of six 777-200ER aircraft.

All images © Boeing

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