MIAMI — Boeing has reached the important milestone of completing the assembly of the first flight test 777X, which is scheduled to take off in early 2019.
Back in September, the manufacturer wowed the world with the rollout of the first 777X testbed vehicle, which is a non-flying airframe that will go through one year of static testing on the ground before further testbeds are allowed in the skies.
The first testbed must complete tests on its structural integrity and the accuracy of its design.
But today, Boeing rolled out the first flying test vehicle that will take to the skies and begin a lengthy flight test program.
According to Boeing, “three additional flight test airplanes will be built after flight test #1.”
Boeing calls this part of its production process a “final body join,” which is when all the major parts of the aircraft’s fuselage are connected to each other. This includes the airplane’s nose, the mid/aft sections, tail, and wings.
The first 777X to enter commercial service will be the 777-9 model, capable of sitting up to 425 passengers. The plane is designed to fly up to 7,600 nautical miles on one tank.
“The 777X is a new airplane and a new production system,” said Josh Binder, vice president and general manager of the 777X.
“With the 777X, the production system was integrated into the development program sooner than any other airplane, and the team is doing a great job of hitting our milestones as expected,” he added.
A Long Way Since
The new 777X will be the longest commercial passenger plane ever seen, measuring 252 ft (77 m), also sporting two of the world’s biggest engines by diameter, the General Electric GE9X.
The airplane’s wing span, boosted by the world’s largest folding wingtips, will measure 235 feet (72 meters), almost the same as the airplane’s length.
The first foldable wingtip was unveiled to the world in late-September. This piece of technology will be installed on the wing of the first testbed WH001 that’s to take flight in March 2019.
Boeing launched the manufacturing process of the new 777 variant in October 2017. A laser-guided robotic arm drilled a tiny hole into the carbon fiber surface of a 105-foot long wing spar and then inserted the very first wing fastener.
“It’s going to set a new bar for commercial aviation,” said Jason Clarke, VP of the Boeing 777/777X program at the time of the inauguration.
The 777X program has scored 340 orders from numerous carriers, among which Middle Eastern giants Emirates and Qatar Airways are prominent buyers. First delivery is expected to happen by 2020.