This blog has been discussing about the 777-9 and 777-8 since many years. I have to admit that this 777 evolution has been one of my centers of interest since very long time ago. Basically, my interest started in early 2002 when Boeing started the 7E7 discussions. At that time, people also talked a lot about the Yellowstone long-term project.
Step Improvement In Technology
When Boeing started to talk openly about the 7E7, I had the feeling the time to roll-over Boeing’s products was started. At that time I got interested by all kind of development studies done in the US, like the one presented in this paper (click here). I would really like to invite you to read it, or at least go to the end of the Section 2 and the beginning of the section 3.
Today, very efficient engines are available and new generation aircraft with a step change in efficiency are coming into the market or being developed. One aircraft that is in development is the 777-9.
the 777X Composite Wing Center – image courtesy of Boeing
Until recently, in my mind the 777-9 remained as a “conceptual” aircraft, but today I have to accept that it is becoming a reality. Indeed, Boeing announced it has just opened the composite wing manufacturing facilities in Seattle area (click here).
This blog already mentioned several times that the 777-9 is one rare “growth” aircraft with a reduced MTOW compared to the aircraft from which it is derived. The reason is very simple. Considering the amount of fuel efficiency gain, the required takeoff weight to do the mission at maximum passenger load is lower than the required takeoff weight of the 777-300ER despite the fact the 777-9 is stretched and has more passengers than the 777-300ER.
In addition, since the new wings have much better aspect ratio and aerodynamics, the required takeoff thrust is lower than the 777-300ER. I would like to invite you to revisit the post titled “Twenty Percent” (click here) and maybe other posts related to 777-300ER evolution.
So, Boeing already started to burn some capital (Capital Expenditure – Capex) for the 777-9 and 777-8. In other words, a huge sum of money has already been spent or incurred. The good thing is that most of the billion dollar for this wing factory spending has been spent in Washington state, increasing local economic activity.
The efficient engine for the 777-9 started it full scale tests in April 2016 (click here). In reality, component tests of the GE9X started in 2011 or about five years ago.
“Compared to other engine programs, the GE9X FETT happened earlier in the development process, just a mere six months after the engine design was finalized. This timing assures all learnings from FETT will be captured in the certification engines. Next year will be a busy year for the GE9X program with the start of certification testing and flight testing on GE Aviation’s flying test bed. Engine certification is anticipated in 2018.” (VV: FETT = first full engine to test)
As a conclusion, I would say that the 777-9 and 777-8 development is progressing according to schedule (… so far…). We need to follow the development closely because Boeing cannot afford to have delays in this program.
Considering the progress made so far, I have the feeling the targeted entry into service in 2020 has some buffer built in. I sincerely think the buffer is around 9 months, leaving some leeway for unexpected hiccups in the future.