LONDON – With the world in constant evolution and experimentation of new technologies, people began to move en masse around the globe in the 90s. And what was the best way to get around? Flying, the safest way to travel.
In this great economic growth that has involved many continents, airlines also needed to update themselves, to keep up with the times, and to satisfy the customers’ requests, which were becoming more and more demanding of two things: greater comfort and greater safety.
We assume that Boeing (BOE) has given millions of passengers the opportunity to travel around the world, or more restrictedly, to their continent: with the launch of the original 737 family in 1965 and four years later ushering in a new era in aviation with its next aircraft.
A Better Aircraft than the Boeing 747
The Boeing 747-100 aircraft was first in many respects: 4 engines, double decks, and an good number of seats. It immediately received an important number of commitments from the best companies, which without hesitation ordered the aircraft, thus opening a new frontier.
Starting from 1981, Boeing put into service the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 767, which immediately received considerable approval from the major carriers, covering that slice of the market for the medium-long range with high capacity thanks to the Extended Twin Engine Operation (ETOPS) certification.
However, at the start of the 1990s, the birth of new competing companies and the retirement of other competitive airplanes such as the Lockheed Tristar L-10-11 and the DC-10 came about. The change in markets that gives carriers the opportunity to to reach new states and thus to open new routes had arrived, and there was a need for change at Boeing.
There was a need for an aircraft that would offer everything a aircraft manufacturer could offer: lots of seats, extended autonomy, lower operating costs than those of the Boeing 747, and the comfort that a jumbo-jet could give.
Initial Boeing 777 Meeting
On December 8, 1989, Boeing began to offer the 777. The design of this new WIDE-BODY aircraft was different from the previous ones and eight airlines took notice: British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), American Airlines (AA), All Nippon Airways (AN), Delta Air Lines (DL), Japan Airlines (JL), Qantas (QF) and United Airlines (UA).
At the first Boeing 777 meeting in 1990, Boeing handed representatives a 23-page questionnaire regarding the wishes of the carriers for the new project. By March of that year, Boeing and the airlines had reached the basic definition: 325 seats, flexible interior, cabin with a section close to that of the 747, fly-by wire, interior with glass cockpit and a passenger / km operating cost 10% lower than the A330 and MD-11.
The company chose the Everett assembly line, formerly known as the assembly line for the Boeing 747.
A World-class Manufacturing Team
The first purchaser of the new Boeing twin-engine was UA, which, on March 14, 1990 signed an agreement for the supply of 34 (with options for another 34) Boeing 777-200s, powered by Pratt and Whitney PW4084. In 1993, the eight companies in question met in Everett to delve more into the details of the project.
With a series of foreign subcontracts, Boeing collaborated with many companies from all over the world, so much so that it appealed to three manufacturers for the construction of three engines with power exceeding 340kn: General Electric, Pratt And Whitney and Rolls Royce.
On April 9, 1994, the first unit, WA001, rolled out of the Everett facility in a series of 15 ceremonies with as many as 100,000 guests in attendance. The first flight took place on June 12, 1994 with Captain John E. Cashman on board. The test program lasted 11 months. During that time, the nine aircraft with GE, PW and RR engines were put to the test in different environments.
Moreover, to satisfy the ETOPS request, the first aircraft built was used for various non-destructive tests, eight tests were carried out with a single engine for 180 minutes each. At the conclusion of these tests, the Federal Administration Aviation (FAA) and the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), gave the green light. The Boeing 777 received the license on April 19, 1995.
The plane, 63.73 meters long and with a wingspan of 60 meters, is able to carry up to 440 passengers in one class. There was talk of a real revolution in the field of aviation because the aircraft was made entirely on the computer with CAD software and built with composite materials. The engine are are as follows:
- General electric GE90-76 / 77B
- Pratt and Whitney PW4077
- Rolls Royce Trent 877.
- All 3 engines have power ratings between 350-360kn. The autonomy was 9705km (5240nmi).
Boeing delivered the first Boeing 777 to UA on May 15, 1995. On May 30, 1995, the FAA granted the PW4084 engine a 180-minute ETOPS license, making it the first aircraft to obtain the ETOPS-180 configuration. The GE90-77B motorized models received the ETOPS-180 configuration on October 3, 1996, and those with the Rolls Royce trent 877s a week later, or October 10 of the same year.
On June 7, 1995, the first Boeing 777 made its first commercial flight from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). The first company to receive the first motorized Boeing 777 RR Trent 877 was Thai Airways (TG), on March 31, 1996, thus completing the introduction of the three propulsion systems.
Boeing 777 Versions
By June 1997, orders had risen to 323 aircraft for 25 different airlines, which continued to rise due to customers satisfaction. Given the popularity of this aircraft, which was becoming increasingly popular for transoceanic routes, Boeing decided to develop new versions:
- 1. The Boeing 777-200ER, developed after the initial model, has an increased maximum weight and a greater increase in load capacity. It flies for the first time on October 7, 1996, receives certification from FAA and JAA on January 17, 1997, entering service on February 9, 1997.
The aircraft has the same characteristics as the -200, even if it has a longer range, which goes from 9705km to 14.300km. The motors available are always the GE90 which however become -80B, -85B, -90B, -94B. The two numbers after the dash indicate the power in pounds. It is even more successful than the first version, with 415 units delivered in 2011. The main user is United Airlines with 55 units in the fleet, powered by both GE and PW.
2. With the Boeing 777-300, Boeing in 1997 brings attention to a longer version, proposing the -300 version. 74 meters long, with a wingspan of 65 meters, it has a capacity of 550 passengers, has a range of 11,170km. CX is the first company to receive this unsuccessful model (only 60 units sold for a total of 8 different companies), due to the launch of the -300ER version. The available engines are: GE90-115B and Rolls Royce Trent 895.
3. The Boeing 777-300ER. This version brings some structural changes: in fact, the aircraft is characterized by elongated and tilted rearward wingtips, a new main landing gear and a reinforced nose landing gear and above all auxiliary tanks. The only engine available for the -300ER is the most powerful commercial engine ever, the GE90-115B which has a maximum thrust of 512.9kn with a fan diameter of 3.4 meters (the size of a 737 fuselage).
The plane has a range of 14,690km. The aircraft received certifications from EASA and and FAA on March 16, 2004. The first airline to receive it was Air France (AF) on April 29, 2004. It is the best-selling aircraft ever with 838 orders from airlines from all over the world. The main user is Emirates (EK) with 151 units in the fleet.
4: The Boeing 777-200LR / 777F entered service in 2006 and became the commercial jet with the longest range in the world. In fact it holds the record for the longest non-stop flight of an airliner (21,600km) and has a autonomy of 17,370 km. Like the -300ER, it has auxiliary tanks and reinforced trolleys and an elongated end flap.
There is only one engine: GE90-110B or -115B. The first aircraft was delivered to Pakistan International Airlines on February 26, 2006.
The freighter version, on the other hand, shares many things with the -200LR, same fuselage, same engines, and the same fuel capacity. With a maximum payload of 103,000 kilograms (226,000 lbs), it has a range of 9070km. The first 777F was delivered to AF on February 19, 2009.
The Boeing 777x
With a total of 2012 orders, Boeing, aware of the commercial success achieved with the 777 family, announced in 2011 the 777x project. This new aircraft, re-designed far and wide, has the best technologies: carbon fiber fuselage, folding winglets, a glass cockpit with 12 ”touch-screen display, wingflex from the Boeing 787, and new GE-9X engines.
Designed in two versions, the 777-8x and 777-9x, it is the latter that is the longest commercial aircraft ever built, 77 meters long with an opening of 72. Capable of carrying 425 passengers, it has a range of 13,396km. After a series of engine-related problems, the type made its maiden flight on January 25, 2020 from the Everett plant, with a 4-hour-long flight before its return to Seattle.
The first Boeing 777x deliveries are scheduled for 2022.
All images: Author