Story written in collaboration by Enrique Perrella, Jamie Clarke, Chris Sloan, Brandon Farris
EVERETT – Following two days of weather-related setbacks, the largest twin-engine commercial aircraft has finally taken off on its maiden flight. The Boeing 777X has departed on a three-hour, fifty-one-minute test flight today after wowing the world with an impressive takeoff.
After numerous headwinds, including an Entry into Service (EIS) delay from mid-2020 to late 2021, the Boeing 777X was scheduled to finally take to the skies on January 23, 2020, but was ultimately delayed two straight days due to poor weather and low visibility in the Puget Sound region.
It has become a tradition that Boeing’s first flights are plagued by poor weather as was the case with the first 787 flights in December 2009 and the first 737 MAX flights in January 2016.
But this time, Boeing was no match for Mother Nature. According to a Boeing spokesman, “We are postponing the 777X first flight that was scheduled to take place tomorrow, Jan. 23, due to weather.”
Earlier today, hundreds of Boeing employees and members of the press stood next to Paine Field Airport’s main runway to witness the historic moment as it unfolded.
At 10:08 am, the brand-new family member of the successful Triple Seven family of aircraft powerfully roared down the runway, later becoming airborne with relative ease.
Reporting from the ground were Chris Sloan, Airways Managing Editor, and Brandon Farris, Airways Staff Photographer, who managed to witness the behemoth of an aircraft rotating into thick Pacific Northwest clouds.
Live Gallery: The 777X Becomes Airborne
Our Staff Photographer, Brandon Farris, produced these excellent and impressive shots of the Boeing 777X rolling down the runway and lifting off the ground for the first time.
As soon as the airplane departed, it turned East towards rural central Washington, where it climbed to 15,000ft and began a lengthy flight test program that consists of several route patterns at slow and medium speeds.
After an intense test flight, the 777X turned back towards the Seattle area ahead of schedule, cutting short its maiden flight for about 70 minutes.
Before coming in to land at Boeing Field Airport (BFI) near central Seattle, the plane did a traditional overflight next to Mount Rainer, where it presumably posed for Boeing’s customary air-to-air photo over Washington State’s most famous landmark.
Minutes later, the 777X smoothly touched down at BFI, followed by thunderous applause by those present next to the airport’s runway. The weather conditions were not optimal, as dense clouds covered Seattle and its surroundings.
After landing, the airplane retracted is wingtips and taxied to Boeing’s hangar area, where it was toed inside to complete what could be described as a successful first flight.
Looking back: Production, Testing Delays
The Boeing 777X suffered quite a few setbacks during its initial testing phase. Back in September 2019, the structural testing had to be suspended as one of the fuselage doors of their testing frame blew off unexpectedly during a maximum pressurization test.
This was a big hit to Boeing as the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) officials were in attendance at the time and were ready to sign off the aircraft for its structural safety. Read our coverage here.
Alongside the structural safety issue, the Boeing 777X was already suffering from delays due to a manufacturing fault with its brand-new General Electric GE9X engines.
The engines had to be recalled for a re-design due to increased wear of the engine and it producing exhaust gas temperatures that were considerably higher than the optimal limits for the GE9X engine.
This was caused by malfunctioning stator vanes in the second stage of the high-pressure compressor.
List: Who are the 777X Customers?
So far, the Boeing 777X has orders for 290 aircraft from nine customers worldwide: All Nippon Airways (ANA), British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and an unidentified customer.
Lufthansa will be the launch customer for 777X when the first plane is delivered in 2021.
The orders are broken down as:
- All Nippon Airways (ANA): 20 777-9X
- British Airways – 18 777-9X
- Cathay Pacific – 21 777-9X
- Emirates – 115 777X
- Etihad Airways – 6 777-9X – (Cancelled majority order from 25 aircraft).
- Lufthansa – 20 777-9X
- Qatar Airways – 60 777X’s (10 777-8X and 50 777-9X)
- Singapore Airlines – 20 777-9Xs
- Unidentified Customer(s) – 10 777Xs
Close Look: The Boeing 777X Variants
The Boeing 777X will come in two different variants, the 777-8X and the 777-9X.
The 777-8X will be the smaller of the two but has the ability to fly 8,730 nautical miles, whereas the 777-9X will be able to fly a distance of 7,285 nautical miles.
Also, the 777-9X is about to become the longest commercial passenger plane ever seen, measuring 252 ft (77 m). The airplane’s wingspan, boosted by the world’s largest folding wingtips, will measure 235 feet (72 meters), almost the same as the airplane’s length.
While on the ground, the 777X’s wingtips will be folded upwards in order to reduce the wingspan of the aircraft for safety and operational reasons. When flying, the 777X’s wingtips will be extended to help the efficiency in-flight, to which the wingspan will then be increased to 235 feet, 5 inches (71.75m).
Both variants will be powered by General Electric’s massive GE9X engine. The 777-8X’s list price is $410.2 million and the 777-9X’s list price is $442.2 million, according to Boeing.
Boeing modeled the 777X’s wing to a similar style of their highly-successful Boeing 787 Dreamliner to help further improve the efficiency of the aircraft.
Stay tuned for more coverage on the Boeing 777X both on AirwaysMag.com and Airways Magazine.
Featured image: Boeing 777X first flight. Photo: Brandon Farris.