Boeing has applied electrical power to the first 777-9 inside the factory in Seattle, just two weeks after it commenced assembly of the latest version of its best-selling twin-jet. Although construction work is not yet complete and the airframe lacks engines, this latest milestone enables the firm to start verifying the functioning of systems such as the computers and flight controls. Meanwhile, the static test specimen which will never fly has also been rolled out.
The first Boeing 777-9 has been powered up. (Boeing)
Along with the smaller 777-8, the 777-9 is part of a new two variant family dubbed the 777X. The 777-9 is being marketed with two configurations - two classes with 42 in business and 414 in economy, or with 8 first class cabins as well as 49 in business and 349 in economy. Use of composites and new engines are expected to improve fuel consumption by more than 15% compared to the -300. The aircraft is 2.9m longer than the current 777-300 and has a greater span which has necessitated a unique innovation - folding wingtips - which will enable the aircraft to fit onto existing airport gates. The feature has forced airworthiness authorities to draw up new certification standards aimed at ensuring they do not fold up in flight and that takeoffs can only be attempted when they are locked down. The mechanism has already been test but will be subject to further scrutiny once the 777-9 gets airborne.
Folding wingtips are an innovative feature of the new derivative. (Boeing)
The cabin of the 777-9 is around 30cm wider than the rival Airbus A350-1000, enabling the Boeing to seat ten abreast in economy. Its fuselage is also longer. That gives the Boeing an advantage as it can shift 100 more passengers with a typical seating layout. However, the aircraft is likely to weigh 35 tons more than the European jet - Airbus claim an A350-1000 with a full payload will weigh no more than an empty 777-9. The list prices of the new aircraft are $336m vs $389m in favour of the Airbus. So each could find a different market, even if there is some overlap.
Boeing has booked orders for 273 777-9s and 53 smaller 777-8x to date. Flight testing is expected to start early in the new year ahead of deliveries to launch customer Emirates in 2020. Other airlines that will take the new jet include Singapore Airlines, Etihad, All Nippon Airways, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific.
Text © The Aviation Oracle