Taking centre-stage at the recent Dubai Airshow was the Boeing 777X, an aircraft that will enter active service in 2023. Find out what this all-new widebody model with an upgraded design has to offer.
The formidable plane I was looking at during the Dubai Air Show had made the long flight from Boeing Field to Dubai World Central, a journey that took nearly 15 hours to accomplish. It is the latest and biggest jet to enter production!
The Boeing 777 was the world’s most popular widebody jet, and Boeing has sold over 1,900 of those. Boeing first talked about an upgraded design back in 2011. That is, the 777X, which is Boeing’s latest widebody aircraft and its largest ever twin-engine aircraft made. Boeing proposed to offer the 777X in two versions: the 777-8 and the 777-9. The 777-9, which is the larger variant of the 777X being tested, stretches the fuselage of the 777-300ER to over 76 metres in length, offering a passenger capacity of up to 426 (in a two-class configuration, according to Boeing). But it is far more than just an updated 777 aircraft.
Today, Boeing has 320 firm orders for the 777X aircraft, with Lufthansa, Emirates, Qatar Airways, British Airways, ANA, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Etihad signing up for it.
Folding wingtips, the new technology marvel
The 777X has a massive wingspan of 71.75 metres, which helps its efficiency but can limit its operation at airports. For the same reason, the Airbus A380, for instance, could not operate to many more airports because a special gate was needed to be installed for the aircraft that could accommodate its large wingspan.
Boeing’s solution is to make the wingtips fold up when on the ground. Doing this reduces the wingspan to just under 65 metres, the same as the earlier 777. This means airports will not need to redesign gates to accommodate the 777X.
Another significant change to the aircraft has been the GE9X engines. These new engines offer a record-breaking 110,000 pounds of thrust, making them the most powerful engines in the world. Designed specifically for the 777X, these engines alone deliver a 10 per cent fuel saving over the GE90 engines fitted in the 777 aircraft. Not just that, for passengers on the plane, they will notice how quiet this jet is compared to the current 777 aircraft.
A wider passenger cabin
The jet is in test configuration right now, with no fancy interiors but many workstations, terminals and water barrel tanks. But as you walk inside, it feels huge. And while as a layperson on the plane you will not feel it, with advances in aviation, Boeing managed to find four inches of space more in the cabin than the current 777 aircraft. That will mean extra space for all passengers.
Will airlines manage to fit 11 passengers per row in Economy on this aircraft? It remains to be seen. But you will certainly be able to see the huge 11-feet wingtips fold and unfold with cameras onboard that will relay it to your in-flight entertainment screen. It is quite a sight.
Bigger windows, better views
The windows are, for many, the star attraction in a plane. Boeing has made the windows about 15 per cent bigger on the 777X, which means more natural light streaming in, and hence, contribute to lesser jet lag for passengers. Not just that, more views for passengers on board this aircraft.
Entering service in 2023
The Boeing 777X took to the skies for the first time in January 2020 and has undergone over 1700 hours of test flight hours so far already. For reference, Mike Fleming, Boeing’s Senior Vice President of the Commercial Derivatives Programme informed TravelDine during a media briefing at Dubai Airshow 2021 that the 777 and 787 programmes had to undergo over 3500 hours of test flying to be certified.
Using that as a reference point, the 777X is just under halfway there for the testing required to be certified for use. Boeing expects the first 777X to be entering service in 2023, which should be just in time for the recovery of international air travel from the pandemic.
Dubai was the first instance of the 777X aircraft, of which four prototypes have been built so far for flight testing purposes, making a trip abroad. The significance of this was not lost. Emirates, which has 126 of these aircraft on order, which is over 40 per cent of the order book, was the first customer to receive the 777X on its home ground. Etihad, the other UAE-based customer, also got a look-in on the new jet.
Meet the pilot
At the Dubai Airshow, the 777X wowed select visitors onboard. Captain Heather Roth, the deputy chief pilot for the aircraft programme who flew it into Dubai, praised how well the jet flew when she talked to TravelDine about the 15 hours long journey.
Not just that, she showed us around the cockpit, which is equipped with four touchscreens along with optional heads-up displays, making life easier for the pilots. Then, she and her colleagues took the jet out for a spin, with an almost vertical take-off. The jet almost performed a barrel roll usually performed by military jets, which quickly became the talk of the show.
I’m sure this was not the first time we will see the Boeing 777X wow people. But I was just lucky enough to be one of the few to be wowed by it on its first public outing.