The third Boeing 777X just flew for the first time — take a look at the enormous new flagship Boeing hopes will be its redemption

tpallini@businessinsider.com (Thomas Pallini)
·8 mins read
The first flight of the Boeing 777X.
The first flight of the Boeing 777X.

Stephen Brashear/Getty

  • Boeing's newest aircraft, the Boeing 777X, flew for the first time in January after lengthy delays.

  • It's the largest twin-engine jet in the world and Boeing's latest new aircraft to fly since the grounding of the 737 Max.

  • The aircraft builds off of the popular Boeing 777 product line offering greater capacity and efficiency aided by new engines. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The third of Boeing's history-making newest plane just took to the skies. 

The Boeing 777X became the newest aircraft to grace the skies above Washington state in January when the experimental aircraft lifted off from Paine Field in Everett following a day of delays due to weather. After three months of test flights with one aircraft, the second 777X took flight on April 30 and now, a third aircraft has taken its maiden flight in a new milestone in the program.

The 777X is the first next-generation variant of Boeing's popular 777 product line, which first flew in the 1990s and currently sees service with the world's leading airlines. Equipped with new engines developed by General Electric and a longer pair of wings, the aircraft aims to carry more passengers while operating more efficiently than its predecessor aircraft, effectively replacing the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet

When it first took flight in January, the 777X became the largest twin-engine jet aircraft to ever fly. Though a milestone aircraft for Boeing, its initial debut last year was hampered by the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 and the subsequent worldwide grounding of the plane due to issues with the aircraft's software stemming from its development.

Take a look at the plane Boeing hopes will be its redemption.  

Boeing's 777 became popular in the mid-90s as the next step up from its 767. Large twin-engine aircraft were gaining popularity due to their efficiency and changing attitudes toward their safety.

A Boeing 777-200 test aircraft.
A Boeing 777-200 test aircraft.

Reuters/Stringer

Source: Boeing

Fast-forward to more recent days: Boeing looked back to its famous 777 to see if it could be improved using technology from its latest widebody, the smaller 787 Dreamliner.

View of one of two Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines of Boeing 787 Dreamliner during a media tour of the aircraft ahead of the Singapore Airshow in Singapore
View of one of two Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines of Boeing 787 Dreamliner during a media tour of the aircraft ahead of the Singapore Airshow in Singapore

Reuters

Read More: Boeing's revolutionary 787 Dreamliner has changed air travel forever. Here's how the company left competitors in the dust with a risky $8 billion bet.

Source: Boeing

And so, the 777X was born.

A Boeing 777X aircraft being built by Boeing.
A Boeing 777X aircraft being built by Boeing.

Stephen Brashear/Getty

Just like the aircraft that came before it, Boeing would create two variants, the -8 and -9.

A Boeing 777X aircraft in production.
A Boeing 777X aircraft in production.

Stephen Brashear/Getty

The -9 aircraft would be the first to be manufactured, with production beginning in October 2017.

A Boeing 777X without paint at Paine Field.
A Boeing 777X without paint at Paine Field.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Source: Boeing

At 251 feet and 9 inches in the length, the aircraft would be the largest twin-engine aircraft to roam the skies.

A Boeing 777x aircraft.
A Boeing 777x aircraft.

LINDSEY WASSON/Reuters

Source: Boeing

Its wingspan is almost as wide as the aircraft is long — wingtip to wingtip it spans 212 feet and 8 inches.

The wingspan of a Boeing 777X.
The wingspan of a Boeing 777X.

TERRAY SYLVESTER/Reuters

Source: Boeing

The aircraft has two different wingspan lengths thanks to a unique feature of the aircraft: the wingtips extend flat before takeoff to improve fuel efficiency.

The retractable wingtips of a Boeing 777X.
The retractable wingtips of a Boeing 777X.

TERRAY SYLVESTER/Reuters

Pilots activate the function via a switch in the cockpit and retract them right after landing to avoid hitting anything on the ground.

A Boeing 777X with its wingtips retracted.
A Boeing 777X with its wingtips retracted.

TERRAY SYLVESTER/Reuters

The wingspan with the extended wingtips is 235 feet, nearly enough to fit two Boeing 757 aircraft back to back.

A Boeing 777X preparing to take flight.
A Boeing 777X preparing to take flight.

LINDSEY WASSON/Reuters

Source: Boeing

While the range of the new -9 and the last generation 777-300ER are comparable, the draw to the new aircraft is its efficiency and extra carrying capacity.

A Boeing 777X taxing back to its hangar.
A Boeing 777X taxing back to its hangar.

LINDSEY WASSON/Reuters

Source: Boeing

The aircraft's increased efficiency and similar range to its predecessors despite the additional load are made possible thanks to General Electric Aviation's GE9X engines.

A General Electric GE9X engine used exclusively on the Boeing 777X.
A General Electric GE9X engine used exclusively on the Boeing 777X.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Source: Boeing

The huge engines are large enough for a Boeing 737 fuselage to fit inside.

The GE Aviation GE9X engine powers the Boeing 777X.
The GE Aviation GE9X engine powers the Boeing 777X.

TERRAY SYLVESTER/Reuters

The fuel-efficient measures of the aircraft lead Boeing to boast that it will offer 10 percent less fuel burn, emissions, and operating costs.

A Boeing 777X aircraft taxing in Washington.
A Boeing 777X aircraft taxing in Washington.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Source: Boeing

Boeing also estimates that the -9 can carry 426 passengers in a two-cabin configuration, 30 more than the -300ER.

A Boeing 777X taxing to the hangar.
A Boeing 777X taxing to the hangar.

TERRAY SYLVESTER/Reuters

Source: Boeing

Passengers can look forward to larger windows, more natural light, quieter engines, and a more spacious cabin.

A Boeing 777X taxing at Paine Field.
A Boeing 777X taxing at Paine Field.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Source: Boeing

Its first flight was scheduled for January 24, 2020, three years after production began. That flight was scrapped, however, due to bad weather in the area.

A Boeing 777X taxis following a failed first flight attempt.
A Boeing 777X taxis following a failed first flight attempt.

LINDSEY WASSON/Reuters

The next day, with the sun shining, the aircraft successfully departed from Paine Field north of Seattle and away from the grounded Max aircraft at Boeing Field.

The first flight of the Boeing 777X.
The first flight of the Boeing 777X.

Stephen Brashear/Getty

A monumental day for Boeing, the aircraft performed routine tests before heading back to Seattle.

The flight path of the Boeing 777X's first flight
The flight path of the Boeing 777X's first flight

FlightRadar24

Source: FlightRadar24

But not before stopping for a photo with Mt. Rainer, a Boeing staple.

The first Boeing 777X flight landing at Boeing Field.
The first Boeing 777X flight landing at Boeing Field.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

The second 777X built by Boeing took flight on April 30, flying for just under 3 hours on its first trip to the skies.

The second Boeing 777X test aircraft taking flight for the first time.
The second Boeing 777X test aircraft taking flight for the first time.

Boeing

Source: Boeing

The second of four flight test aircraft, this plane will test the 777X's flight handling characteristics and performance capabilities. Boeing flew the plane from its birthplace at Everett, Washington's Paine Field to Seattle's Boeing Field.

The second Boeing 777X test aircraft taking flight for the first time.
The second Boeing 777X test aircraft taking flight for the first time.

Boeing

Source: Boeing

A third aircraft took flight on August 3, departing from its home at Paine Field and heading as far south as Salem, Oregon before heading home via Spokane, Washington and a few touch-and-go maneuvers at an airport in Moses Lake, Washington.

Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.
Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.

Boeing

Source: Flighradar24

This test aircraft will focus on the auxiliary power unit – known as the third engine as it provides additional energy for functions such as engine start – as well as the aircraft's avionics, flight loads, and propulsion performance.

Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.
Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.

Boeing

Instead of the Boeing house livery that its predecessors wear, the third aircraft's fuselage is nearly all white with the Boeing logo and other small lettering and branding providing the only color.

Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.
Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.

Boeing

The tail, however, remained the same.

Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.
Boeing's third 777X aircraft departing on a test flight.

Boeing

The aircraft will continue test flights until it receives certification from the world's aviation regulatory agencies. So far, Boeing has logged around 100 hours of test flying with the new type.

A Boeing 777X test flight.
A Boeing 777X test flight.

Stephen Brashear/Getty

When it does receive the certification, expected to be rigorous following the issues exposed with the Boeing 737 Max certification, deliveries can begin to customers, with Emirates first on the list.

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in Dubai.
Emirates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in Dubai.

Reuters

Source: Forbes

Seven other airlines have the aircraft on order including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, British Airways, All Nippon Airways, Etihad Airways, and Cathay Pacific.

A Boeing 777X aircraft departing Paine Field.
A Boeing 777X aircraft departing Paine Field.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Source: Boeing

As is Boeing's custom, painted on the side of the fuselage of the test plane is the tails of each airline that has an order in for the plane.

A Boeing 777X aircraft on its first test flight.
A Boeing 777X aircraft on its first test flight.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The cost per plane stands at $442.2 million, but some airlines receive discounts for buying in bulk.

A Boeing 777X aircraft preparing for takeoff.
A Boeing 777X aircraft preparing for takeoff.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Source: Boeing

For the majority of the airlines in the list, an Airbus aircraft serves as the flagship, though the 777X will likely take that spot.

A Boeing 777X preparing for its first test flight amid bad weather.
A Boeing 777X preparing for its first test flight amid bad weather.

Stephen Brashear/Getty

The first delivery – and likely the first passenger flight – of the aircraft is expected for 2022 following pandemic-related delays.

A taxing Boeing 777 in Seatle, Washington.
A taxing Boeing 777 in Seatle, Washington.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Read More: Boeing's Washington facilities closed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Take a look at the greatest successes and failures which were built there.

Until then, Boeing can revel in its accomplishment as its the next step towards redemption for the troubled manufacturer.

A Boeing 777X aircraft returns triumphantly following a successful test flight.
A Boeing 777X aircraft returns triumphantly following a successful test flight.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

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