It’s been a while since Boeing introduced a new aircraft design rather than size variations on existing models. But that will change soon as the manufacturer is on track to start test flights this spring of its newer, wider 777X aircraft.
The 777X is the next generation of Boeing’s 777 aircraft, which comes in two models—the 777-200 and larger 777-300. The 777X will arrive with a whole range of new design features, tech innovations and passenger comforts.
The 777X will also come in two models – the 777-8 and the larger 777-9. The -9 will be introduced first, and that’s the one set to start test flights in a matter of weeks. It could go into passenger service by 2020. Boeing already has 273 orders for the plane from airlines including Lufthansa (which will launch the new plane), Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, ANA, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad.
According to Boeing, the 777-9 will be slightly larger than the current 777-300ER – 7 feet longer and able to carry 18 more passengers, making it the largest twin-engine jet in the company’s lineup. The 777-8 will be almost 16 feet shorter than the 777-300ER and will accommodate fewer passengers but will have greater range. Boeing said that the 777X’s design innovations and big new GE engines (the largest ever on a Boeing aircraft) will make the 777X 12 percent more fuel-efficient than its newest long-haul rival from Airbus, the A350-1000- which is music to the ears of airlines worried about future fuel price hikes. (See our slideshow at the top of the post for a look at this new jet compared to others.)
Thanks to a new folding design for the ends of its wings, the 777X wings will each be 11 feet longer than those on existing 777s and the A350 – a total wingspan of a whopping 235 feet. The folding wings should allow the aircraft to fit into hangars and gate areas not designed to accommodate such a long wingspan. (It’s not the greatest wingspan for a commercial airliner, though – that would be the Airbus A380 at more than 261 feet, although the 777-9 will be 13 feet longer than the A380. Most airports had to make modifications to welcome the A380 double decker when it debuted in 2007.)
The 777-9 will have a range of 8,662 miles. That’s more than enough to fly non-stop from San Francisco to New Delhi or SFO-Dubai (although not quite as great as the range of the Airbus A350-900ULR that Singapore Airlines operates between Singapore and Newark nor as great as the range of an A380). It is designed to accommodate about 414 passengers in a two-class configuration, Boeing said (including 10-across seating in economy); by comparison, United’s current 777-300ERs have a passenger capacity of 366.
The 777X combines some features from the existing 777 line and some from the popular 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The passenger cabins will have larger windows, larger overhead bins, enhanced LED lighting, and will be four inches wider than current 777 models- which should help with the tight 10 across seating in coach. (Both mechanical and electronic window shades are available and chose by airline customer.) The passenger experience will also benefit from cabins with better humidity and temperature controls, cleaner air and less noise, Boeing said.