Dubai Airshow’s most distinguished visitor, the Boeing 777X, the largest twin-engine commercial jet in history, made its first appearance at an international event this week. And along with it, there was the expectation that Boeing would launch the long-awaited 777XF, freighter variant of the aircraft.
However, Boeing has frustrated the more hopefuls by considering the version not a priority at the moment. The focus is to certify the 777-9, a variant with a capacity for 426 passengers and which accounts for most of the orders so far.
The new generation of the 777 should have started its commercial career two years ago, but the program was delayed, affected by technical problems and also by the pandemic. Even so, Boeing believes it will be able to complete its FAA certification in 2023, paving the way for the first deliveries within two years.
As for the 777XF, it’s highly likely, hinted Ihssane Mounir, senior vice president, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, at the event. “We are in advanced discussions with several customers and the plane looks good from a design and requirements standpoint,” he told reporters.
Boeing still has another short-term task, to define the future of the 777-8, the smaller version of the jet that offers greater range in return. It has few customers, including Emirates, an airline that has been very critical of the aircraft’s development.
During the Dubai Airshow, the always outspoken Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman of the Air Lease Corporation (ALC), confirmed that Boeing has tried to sell the 777XF to the lessor, promising the aircraft will be delivered starting in 2028.
Udvar-Hazy, however, preferred to listen to some of the company’s customers and opted for the Airbus A350F, a direct competitor to the 777, which was launched precisely in Dubai with an order for seven aircraft by ALC.
Despite this, the US manufacturer said it was optimistic about the future of the 777X, pointing out as reasons the retirement of old four-engine engines and the fact that the current moment in air travel makes Boeing buy time to develop its plane in the best possible way.
The air cargo market is experiencing a boom caused by the increase in e-commerce and Boeing has always been well positioned in this segment, with a very broad range of aircraft compared to Airbus. But the arrival of the A350F ahead of the 777XF is a worrying sign for the already busy Chicago-based company.