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The 777X: Boeing's next big bird

By David Flynn     Filed under: Boeing, Boeing 777, Boeing 787 Dreamliner

As Boeing's troubled 787 Dreamliner returns to the skies, the company is taking another step towards its next new aircraft design: the Boeing 777X.

Expected to start commercial flights by the end of this decade, the 777X is the next-generation of Boeing's best-selling 777, which has become the company's most profitable aircraft with over 1,000 in service.

The 777X will adopt some 787 technology such as extra-long wings made from carbon-fiber composites rather than metal.

However, the tips of those wings are expected to fold up when the 777X is on the ground, dropping down and locking into place before the plane takes off.

It's a high-tech trick required to help the 777X fit into airport boarding gates and taxiways designed for the smaller members of the 777 family – the 777X's wingspan is expected to exceed that of today's largest 777-300ER by 6 metres (20 feet), making them even longer than Boeing's 747-8 jumbo jet.

In fact, it's not even a new idea: Boeing patented it in 1995 for the original Boeing 777, and while no airline ever ticked this option box on their order, a full-scale model of the folding wingtip is on display at Boeing's Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Long wings for the win

The reason for Boeing's love affair with long wings? They''ll let the 777X fly further, increase fuel efficiency and carry more passengers and cargo.

"The range and aerodynamic quality of this aircraft is all about the wing," says Emirates President Tim Clark, who has been privvy to Boeing's work on the 777X.

The stretched wingspan means the Boeing 777X "flies faster, it carries more, it is far more fuel efficient."

Boeing is expected to offer the 777X in two sizes – the 777-8 and 777-9, following the naming conventions adopted for the 787 Dreamliner – along with 'ultra long-range' LX versions.

Although the 777X is almost seven years away from takeoff, Boeing will soon start spruiking the jet to airlines in the hopes of landing big orders – especially from current 777 stalwarts such as Emirates, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, ANA, British Airways, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

The prize of a high-profile launch customer who will take first delivery of the 777X – but also carry the first risks of delays – is likely to go to Emirates, which is already the world's largest customer for the Boeing 777 and has been working with Boeing on finalising the 777X specs.

“We’re working closely to get to specifications we’re happy with,” Emirates' chief Clark told Bloomberg last month. “That means layouts, the seats, the galleys, getting the weights right, getting the fuel burn.”

For the latest news for business travellers and frequent flyers, follow @AusBT on Twitter.


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 2/5/13 by Charles

This is the aircraft that could be the game changer. The Dreamliner was a replacement upgrade for the 767 A330 options and plays in the current 777 space.

The 777x has the possibility to end the 747 for good and seriously dent future airline purchases of the A380. Apparently it will seat over 400 people, with just two engines and be more efficient than the current 777-300ER.

So yes, it will seat less than the A380 and 747, but it will be considerably cheaper on per person basis. 

This could be the game changer the Dreamliner was meant to be, as it will still fit in the traditional Hub and Spoke model airlines used, but will open up more point to point services.

Watch this space!

1 on 2/5/13 by JamesM

SCF, pretty much agree with you there although I thjink it will more compliment the 787, with the 787 for 'long thin' and point-to-point routes without the high passenger load and the 777X for the traditional big routes, the people-movers, with first class into the deal.

1 on 3/5/13 by Charles

Your exactly right, the 777x will absolutely compliment the 787 but also the new 737max. 

Boeing have taken their time withis project to see how Airbus responded with the A350. Now that the the A350 is out they can hit the market knowing what to compete with.

What is interesting is that by the end of this decade, an airline can have a 737max as the workhorse between hubs, 787 for a mid size aircraft for busier domestic routes and less demanding short and long haul routes and the 777x for the high demand long haul routes. And all these aircraft will have very similar pilot ratings so airlines can transition flight crew with much better flexibility.

Boeing are certainly positioning themselves very strategically as a total airline solution.

1 on 3/5/13 by kash

yup smart decision


however not all airlines use 737.A320 between hubs

CX/JL use massive widebodies for 1-2 hour flights and  the main aircraft on those routes are the non ER 777 and neither Airbus nor boeing want to fill that gap!!!

CX 777-300 carry 400 passengers on 1 hour flights- these aircraft need to be replaced by something!!!

1 on 3/5/13 by Charles

Your right that 737/A320 aren't always used between hubs, bit like Sydney Melbourne with qantas, busy route means a mix of 767/A330 and 737.

So Dreamliner as I mentioned will be utilised on the busier more demanding domestic routes with the single isle variants filling the gaps.

2 on 2/5/13 by Waynec

Would be nice if Qantas orders these aircraft. But it seems pretty unlikely at the moment given its plan to limit CAPEX.

1 on 2/5/13 by TheRealBabushka

You're assuming Qantas has a strategy other than retaining/maintaining it's domestic market share and hiving off its international business to codeshare operators? :p

3 on 2/5/13 by pika

I wonder how Boeing got a patent on folding wings. There have been lots of aircraft in the past with folding wings.

The 777-X should be a great aircraft. However, 7 years is a long time to wait. They should have got this thing going long ago, especially with competition from the A350. I like the idea of the 777-X retaining the aluminium fuselage.

1 on 3/5/13 by Stewart

Considering that Boeing already offered an extended folding wing previously, and that the article says nothing about the engine options changing for the 777-X, having to wait 7 years to get the improved variation is ridiculous.  They should certainly be able to have this version available by the time the present production waiting list (3.5 years?) slots would become available for delivery.  The only way that it should take 7 years is if Boeing were waiting for a new powerplant to come on-stream at the same time as the fuseulage stretch + the wing modifications.

Otherwise, this looks like an excellent & compelling aircraft.  I wonder if QF will ever get past the James Strong declaration that Qantas would NEVER buy the 777?

1 on 3/5/13 by pika

Yes, Qantas should place orders for the 777-X. Immediately.

2 on 3/5/13 by JBH

@Stewart, you make some very interesting observations. to your last para, I too have struggled with QF's aircraft selection especially the lack of 777 inventory in their fleet where they would have been a very compatable work horse on so many of their routes (former and current) . The endless chip and change of aircraft type on QF routing has resulted as a constant annoyance for many FFer's.

3 on 3/5/13 by Al

I don't understand why any airline CEO would so uttely rule out a specific type of aircraft, especially when the 777 has proven itself so popular and the long-haul single-decker of choice for so many of the world's leading airlines!

But, didn't QF decide not to go for the 777 because of the 787? They were among the launch customers for that, and if the 787 had been delivered on time then Qantas would be 'sitting pretty' now with a massive 787 fleet for itself and Jetstar and it would have weathered the storm of fuel costs much better and also have much lower maintenance costs.

I suppose hindsight is always 20/20 vision, if QF knew it'd go that way they would have bought some 777s or insisted on Boeing lending them 777s until the 787 was delivered.

1 on 3/5/13 by Stewart

No, Al, sorry, but the chronology does not work out that way.  The 777 was being sold considerably prior to the 787 being even committed design project, let alone having been committed to go into production.  Strong was of the view that two engine airliners were fundamentally an improper design to fly on long global routes, especially over water; - so that would have disqualified the 787 even if he did know about it.  His prejudice was common at that time however, and even the regulatory agencies initially banned the 767 and 777 from over-water stage lengths of more than something like 2.5 hours from an alternate airport; which resulted in many modified less direct routes being flown.

I more resent DIXON, when he was CEO, rejecting the 777, by which time its merits were obvious and the regulatory issues long over; - initially because he wanted an all 747 international fleet (stupidly even including trans-Tasman routes).  Only later did he correctly become a proponent of the 787 and A380 when they became available to order.  I am sure, however, that when QF were placing their massive 787 order, that they could have (and should have) required Boeing to procure and lease to them some 777's until the 787's could be delivered. 

4 on 4/5/13 by kash

I would be suprised if QANTAS went for the 777-X

I thought their goal was to slowly diminish and become less relevant?!


although if Jetstar ordered a 777-X I would not be suprised , actually it would be quite exciting to see what would happen when Jetstar starts shuttling 400-450 people to SIN!

5 on 5/5/13 by Stewart

I would like to know what aircraft exist that Qantas could use for their non-stop SYD-DFW service to replace or supplement the existing 747-400ER's in use?  Better yet, are there any with the extra hour of endurance needed to fly DFW-SYD (against the winds) rather than needing to stop in Brisbane along the way?  From recollection, neither the 787 or the 777-300ER have that range?

1 on 5/5/13 by Waynec

Hi Stewart, I guess they will likely use the A380 when they get more A380s given that the 12 A380s in their fleet are now being tied up for the LHR and LAX routes. Given the long haul nature of this route, they will need more than 1 aircraft to operate this route. 

2 on 5/5/13 by Stewart

I just looked up the range of some airliners on Wikipedia, and I see that the 777-200ER seems to have an extraordinary range of 9,380 nautical miles, compared to only 7,670 for the 747-400ER, so it would not only do DFW-SYD with ease, but could even make MEL!  Impressive.  Come on QF, get some!  Used ones would be cheap because many airlines replaced them with the 50 seat bigger 777-300ER's.


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