Boeing confirmed that the first flight of the 777-9, the largest version of the new 777X series, will take place in the next few hours. “After years of design and testing, it’s almost time to fly. The 777X will make its first flight as early as January 23, subject to weather and other factors,” said the manufacturer’s post on Twitter. However, Boeing informed today that the first flight was postponed due to weather. “The team is currently assessing the possibility of flying on January 24”, explained.
There were several postponements until Boeing could announce the imminence of the inaugural flight of the largest passenger twin-engine in history, an aircraft capable of carrying up to 426 passengers in two classes. The company planned to start the flight test program in the first half of last year, but the second accident with the 737 MAX in March forced it to cancel its public presentation, which ended up being restricted to employees only.
In early June, Emirates Airline President Tim Clark appointed the 26th as the date for the first flight of the jet, but difficulties with the GE9X engines caused the manufacturer to postpone its plans. According to General Electric, the turbofan presented durability problems, preventing any takeoff. Boeing then went on to disclose that the inaugural flight was due to take place by the end of last year and maintained the development schedule to certify it during 2020.
But in July, the company admitted that the 777X program was more delayed than it admitted. The first flight was delayed until the beginning of 2020, although it insisted on providing for the delivery of the first series airplanes later this year – Emirates and Lufthansa will be the first to operate it.
To try to resolve the delays, the manufacturer confirmed in August that the 777-8 version, with less passenger capacity and greater range, would have development suspended for its employees to focus on the larger variant. In the following month, a new unforeseen event: tests on the structure ended up suspended after a cargo compartment door exploded. Despite this, Boeing considered the test normal.
Deliveries in 2021
Once again, a report to shareholders provided new information on the development of the widebody. In October, when commenting on the third quarter figures, Boeing acknowledged that “it is aiming for the beginning of 2021 for the first delivery of the 777X”.
Again, the optimism of the American company was questioned by Tim Clark, who considered the certification deadline of just one year to be short. For the Emirates executive, the company should receive eight 777-9 in 2020, but that “it looks like we won’t have any”.
Although the scenario is very adverse, the announcement is one of the rare good news that Boeing gives to the market after disastrous months. The failed attempt to deceive customers, the press and public opinion about the 737 Max’s serious design problems only made the company wear out even more. This week, the manufacturer admitted that it is seeking a $ 10 billion loan to cover its recent losses.
As for the 777X, the inaugural flight will be a turning point in expectations, however, far from meaning that the program will be successful. So far, few customers have been willing to invest in the huge twin engine that, despite operational efficiency, seems too big for the current market reality.