MIAMI — Boeing has unveiled a photo of the very first 777-X foldable wingtip to be installed on the wing of the first testbed WH001 that’s to take flight in March 2019.
The Boeing 777-X will be the longest commercial aircraft in the world. At 76.7 meters of length and a gargantuan wingspan of 72 meters (236ft), this plane will be an eye-catcher wherever it goes.
The plane will be about three meters longer than its older sister, the Boeing 777-300(ER).
Also, it will feature the world’s largest engine by fan diameter at a massive 134 inches. The General Electric GE9X powerplants will offer more than 100,000 pounds of thrust.
In March 2018, General Electric released a photo of its Boeing 747 Propulsion Test Platform carrying the massive GE9X, which in comparison to the other three engines on the 747, it looks disproportionally immense.
GE notes that at 134 inches, “its fan diameter is so tall and wide that Shaquille O’Neil would fit inside the engine’s cover with Kobe Bryant sitting on his shoulders.”
The whole engine is as wide as the body of an entire Boeing 737, claims the engine manufacturer.
With such large engines and its extensive wingspan, the 777X will have a hard time maneuvering through most airports.
“We need to be compatible with all of the airports that the current 777s operate in and out of. For this reason, we have developed the folding wingtip,” said Terry Beezhold, Chief Project Engineer of the 777X program.
Therefore, Boeing came up with a design that will allow the aircraft’s wingtips to fold, reducing the wingspan to 65 meters (231.2ft).
“The span of this wing gives us an enormous amount of lift capability while we minimize the drag with the composite wing technology,” says Beezhold.
But several questions have come up in online forum discussions pondering whether the folding mechanism will also deploy while the aircraft is in flight. However, Boeing has clarified that this is not the case.
“From the very beginning, we focused on the safety of the folding wingtip,” admits Beezhold. “We approached it with the same way we approach any flight control system in any aircraft.”
According to the manufacturer, the plane will come with a myriad of safety warnings that will prevent the aircraft from taking off with its wingtips folded. Also, Boeing guarantees that the system.
“We think about the redundancy of the actual folding mechanism, the locking pins, the primary and secondary latch systems… we have multiple layers of redundancy and protection to ensure that the folding wingtip always remains extended inflight, and only folds when commanded on the ground.”
The American planemaker says this idea was conceived in 1993, the time when it issued a patent for the folding mechanism.
In May, the FAA approved for commercial the use the folding composite wingtips, allowing the two 777-X variants, the -8 and -9, to use them without any form of restrictions.
Will it be a Commercial Success?
Boeing is well underway the testing phase of the 777-X program. The manufacturer has sold 273 units to customers from around the globe.
Lufthansa will be the launch customer of the new Boeing 777-9, scheduled to take delivery of the first aircraft in 2020.
However, Dubai-based Emirates has 150 units ordered, immediately becoming the largest operator of the 777-X and the 777 program as a whole.
Currently, the Emirati carrier operates a fleet of 163 Triple Sevens (-200LR and -300(ER)).
Boeing claims that the new wing design on the 777X and its fourth-generation composite and folding wingtips ensure that the plane will be 12% more fuel efficient than the competition.
Boeing’s new wing design, instead of aluminum, has been designed using lightweight and highly stable carbon fiber composites.