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The Boeing 777 is a long range, wide-body twin-engine airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Boeing 777: British Airways Boeing 777 landing at London Heathrow runway 09L. Photo (CC) lemoncat1.Boeing 777: British Airways Boeing 777 landing at London Heathrow runway 09L. Photo (CC) lemoncat1.

The world's largest twinjet and commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven", the aircraft can carry between 283 and 368 passengers in a three-class configuration and has a range from 5,235 to 9,380 nautical miles (9,695 to 17,370 km). Distinguishing features of the 777 include the six wheels on each main landing gear, its circular fuselage cross section, the largest diameter turbofan engines of any aircraft, and the blade-like end to the tail cone.

Designed to bridge the capacity difference between the 767 and 747, the Boeing 777 is produced in two fuselage lengths. The original 777-200 model first entered service in 1995, and the stretched 777-300, which is 33.3 ft (10.1 m) longer, was introduced in 1998. The longer range 777-200LR and 777-300ER variants entered service in 2006 and 2004, respectively, while a freighter version, the 777F, first flew in 2008. Both long range 777 models and the 777F are equipped with GE90 engines, wingtip extensions of 12.8 ft (3.9 m), and raked wingtips. The 777-200LR is currently the world's longest range airliner, and holds the record for longest distance flown by an unrefuelled commercial airliner.

The Boeing 777 entered commercial airline service with United Airlines in 1995, and Singapore Airlines operates the largest 777 fleet of any airline as of 2008. The most common 777 variant used worldwide is the 777-200ER, an extended range version of the original 777-200, with 407 aircraft delivered as of November 2008. As of November 2008, 56 customers have placed orders for 1,096 777s with 741 delivered.

Through the 2000s, the Boeing 777 has emerged as one of its manufacturer's best-selling models. Due to rising fuel costs, airlines have acquired the 777 as a comparatively fuel-efficient alternative to other wide-body jets, and have increasingly used the aircraft on long-haul, transoceanic routes. Direct market competitors to the 777 are the Airbus A330-300 and A340, as well as the upcoming more fuel-efficient A350 XWB, which is currently under development.

Boeing 777: Air Canada Boeing 777-333ER C-FITU. Photo (CC) caribb.Boeing 777: Air Canada Boeing 777-333ER C-FITU. Photo (CC) caribb.

Development

Background

The Boeing 747, Douglas DC-10, and the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar became the first generation of wide-body passenger airliners to enter service by the early 1970s. In the late 1970s, Boeing unveiled three new models: the twin-engine 757 to replace the venerable 727, the twin-engine 767 to challenge the Airbus A300, and a trijet 777 concept to compete with the DC-10 and L-1011. The 757 and 767 twinjets were a success, due in part to the 1980s ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) regulations governing transoceanic twinjet operations. ETOPS regulatory approval allowed twinjet aircraft to fly long-distance overseas routes at up to three hours' distance from emergency diversionary airports. The trijet 777 was later cancelled, much like an earlier 757 trijet concept, due in part to the complexities of a trijet design and the absence of applicable engines. Boeing was left with a size and range gap in its product line between the 767-300ER and the 747-400.

By the 1980s, the DC-10 and L-1011 were approaching retirement, prompting manufacturers to develop replacement designs. McDonnell Douglas was working on the MD-11, a stretched and upgraded version of the DC-10, while Airbus was developing the A330 and A340. In the mid-1980s, Boeing produced proposals for an enlarged 767, dubbed 767-X, to target the replacement market for first generation wide-bodies like the DC-10. The 767-X had a longer fuselage and larger wings than the existing 767, and seated about 340 passengers with a maximum range of 7,300 nautical miles (13,500 km). Later versions of the proposed 767-X further expanded the fuselage cross-section, but still retained the existing 767 flight deck, nose, and other elements.

The airlines were unimpressed with the 767-X, and stated that they wanted short to intercontinental range capability, a bigger cabin cross-section, a fully flexible cabin configuration, and an operating cost lower than any 767 stretch. Airline planners' requirements for larger aircraft had become increasingly more specific, adding to the heightened competition among aircraft manufacturers. By 1988 Boeing realized that the only answer was a new design, the 777 twinjet. On December 8, 1989, Boeing began issuing offers to airlines on its proposed new wide-body aircraft.

Design effort

The design phase of the Boeing 777 was different from previous Boeing jetliners. For the first time, eight major airlines, namely All Nippon Airways, American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and United, had a role in the development of the plane. This was a departure from industry practice, where manufacturers typically conducted the design process with little airline input. The eight airlines that contributed to the 777 design process became known within Boeing as the "Working Together" group. At the first "Working Together" meeting in January 1990, a 23-page questionnaire was distributed to the airlines, asking each what it wanted in the new design. By March 1990, Boeing and the airlines had decided upon a basic design for the 777: a cabin cross-section close to the 747's, capacity up to 325 passengers, fly-by-wire controls, glass cockpit, flexible interior, and 10% better seat-mile costs than the A330 and MD-11.

Boeing 777: Boeing 777. Photo (CC) cambecc.Boeing 777: Boeing 777. Photo (CC) cambecc.

In October 1990, United became the Boeing 777's launch customer when it placed an order for 34 Pratt & Whitney-powered 777s with options on a further 34. The development of the 777 coincided with United Airlines' replacement program for its aging DC-10s. United Airlines required that the new aircraft needed to be capable of flying three different routes; Chicago to Hawaii, Chicago to Europe, and non-stop from Denver, a hot and high airport, to Hawaii. ETOPS certification was also a priority for United Airlines, given the overseas portion of United's Hawaii routes.

In January 1993, the 767-X was officially renamed the 777, and a team of United 777 developers joined other airline teams and the Boeing team at the Boeing Everett factory in Washington. Divided into 240 design teams of up to 40 members, working on individual components of the aircraft, almost 1,500 design issues were addressed. The fuselage diameter was further increased to suit Cathay Pacific, the baseline model grew longer for All Nippon Airways, and British Airways' input led to added built-in testing and interior flexibility.

The Boeing 777 was the first commercial aircraft to be designed entirely on computer. All design drawings were created on a 3D CAD software system known as CATIA, sourced from Dassault Systemes and IBM. This allowed a virtual 777 to be assembled, in simulation, to check for interferences and to verify proper fit of the many thousands of parts, thus reducing costly rework. Boeing was initially not convinced of the abilities of the program, and built a mock-up of the nose section to test the results. It was so successful that all further mock-ups were cancelled.

Production and testing

The production process for the Boeing 777 included substantial international content, with an unprecedented level of global subcontracting for a Boeing jetliner, exceeded only by the later 787. International contributors included Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (fuselage panels), Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (center wing section), Hawker De Havilland (elevators), ASTA (rudder) and Ilyushin (jointly designed overhead baggage compartment). An agreement between Boeing and the Japan Aircraft Development Corporation (JADC), representing Japanese aerospace contractors, made the latter risk-sharing partners for 20% of the entire 777 program. The 777 was launched with propulsion options from three manufacturers, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, and Rolls-Royce, giving the airlines their choice of engines from competing firms.

Boeing selected its Everett factory, home of 747 production, as the site of 777 final assembly. To accommodate production of its new twinjet, Boeing doubled the size of the Everett factory to provide room for the addition of two new 777 assembly lines. The cost of upgrading the Everett factory for 777 production totaled nearly US$1.5 billion. Among new production methodologies developed for the 777, Boeing developed a turn machine which could rotate fuselage subassemblies 180 degrees, allowing workers access to 777 upper body sections. Production of the first 777 prototype began in January 1993. By the start of 777 production, the program had amassed 118 firm orders, with options for 95 more from ten airlines. Total investment in the 777 program was estimated at over US$4 billion from Boeing, with an additional US$2 billion from suppliers.

On April 9, 1994, the first Boeing 777, line number WA001, was rolled out in a series of fifteen ceremonies held during the day to accommodate the 100,000 invited guests. The first flight took place on June 14, 1994, piloted by 777 Chief Test Pilot John E. Cashman, marking the start of an eleven month flight test program more extensive than that seen on any previous Boeing model. Nine aircraft in total were used in the 777 flight test program, five powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, two by General Electric GE90 engines, and two by Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines. Testing locations included the desert airfield at Edwards Air Force Base in California and frigid conditions in Alaska. To satisfy ETOPS requirements, flight testing on the 777 included eight 180-minute single-engine diversion test flights. The first 777-200 built was used by Boeing's non-destructive testing (NDT) campaign in 1994–1995, and provided valuable data for the -200ER and -300 programs. At the conclusion of the successful test program, the 777 was awarded simultaneous airworthiness certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) on April 19, 1995.

Entry into service

On May 15, 1995 Boeing delivered the first 777, registered N777UA, to United Airlines. The FAA awarded 180-minute ETOPS clearance ("ETOPS-180") for Pratt & Whitney PW4084 engined 777-200s on May 30, 1995, making the 777 the first aircraft to carry an ETOPS-180 rating at its entry into service. Longer ETOPS approval to 207 minutes was later approved. The 777's first commercial flight took place on June 7, 1995 from London's Heathrow Airport to Dulles International Airport near Washington D.C.

In November 1995, Boeing delivered the first 777 with General Electric GE90-77B engines to launch customer British Airways, which subsequently placed the aircraft into service later that month. Initial service with the engine was affected by gearbox bearing wear issues, which caused British Airways to temporarily withdraw its GE90-77B engined aircraft from transatlantic service in 1997. British Airways' GE90-77B engined 777s returned to full service later that year, and engine manufacturer General Electric subsequently announced upgraded GE90 versions.

The first Rolls-Royce Trent 877-powered Boeing 777 was delivered to Thai Airways in March 1996, completing the entry of all three 777 powerplants into service. All three 777 engine-airframe combinations had secured ETOPS-180 certification from the point of entry into service. By June 1997, total orders for the 777 numbered 323 from 25 customers, including satisfied launch customers which had ordered additional aircraft. Performance data from 777 operations established the consistent capabilities of the twin-engine airliner over long-haul transoceanic routes, leading to further sales. By 1998, dispatch reliability rates (measuring takeoff without delay) for the Boeing 777 had reached 99.96% as 777 operations grew, and total fleet hours approached 900,000.

Further developments

After the initial 777-200 model, Boeing developed the 777-200ER, an increased gross weight variant, which first entered service with British Airways in 1997. The 777-200ER offered greater range and payload capability, and subsequently became the most popular version of the 777 in service. On April 2, 1997, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER dubbed "Super Ranger" broke the great circle "Distance Without Landing" record for an airliner by flying east, the "long way," from Boeing Field, Seattle, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a distance of 20,044 km (10,823 nautical miles), in 21 hours, 23 minutes.

Following the introduction of the 777-200ER, Boeing turned its attention to a stretched variant of the 777. On October 16, 1997, the first 777-300 made its first flight. At 242.4 ft (73.9 m) in length, the 777-300 became the longest airliner yet produced (until the A340-600), and had a 20% greater capacity than the standard 777-200. On May 4, 1998, the 777-300 was awarded type certification simultaneously from the FAA and JAA, and granted 180-minute ETOPS approval. The 777-300 entered service with launch customer Cathay Pacific later in that month.

By the late 1990s, Boeing was considering ultra long range versions of the 777-200 and 777-300. A more powerful engine was required, leading to active discussions between Boeing and the 777 engine manufacturers. General Electric offered to develop the GE90-115B engine, with a projected thrust of 115,000 lbf (512 kN), while Rolls-Royce proposed developing the Trent 8104 engine, with a thrust of 104,000 to 114,000 lbf (463 to 507 kN) and tested up to 117,000 lbf (520 kN). In 1999, Boeing announced an agreement with General Electric, beating out Rolls-Royce, who could not agree on risk sharing for the project. As part of the deal with General Electric, Boeing agreed that GE90 engines would be exclusively offered on new long range 777 models.

Next generation 777s

In February 2000, Boeing began issuing offers to airlines on its next generation long range 777 program, initially called 777-X. The first model to emerge from the 777-X program, the 777-300ER, was launched with an order for ten aircraft from Air France, along with additional undisclosed orders. Development of the next generation 777 aircraft was slowed by the airline industry downturn which lasted through the early 2000s. The first flight of the 777-300ER occurred on February 24, 2003, and the first delivery to Air France occurred on April 29, 2004. The -300ER became one of Boeing's top-selling models, as airlines increasingly replaced four-engine models with the more fuel-efficient twin-engined 777.

The second model to originate from the 777-X program, the 777-200LR, rolled out on February 15, 2005 and completed its first flight on March 8, 2005. The -200LR was certified by both the FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (successor to the JAA) to enter into passenger service on February 2, 2006, and entered into service in January 2006 with Pakistan International Airlines. On November 10, 2005, the first 777-200LR set a record for the longest non-stop flight by passenger airliner by flying 11,664 nautical miles (13,422 statute miles, or 21,602 km) eastwards (the westerly great circle route is only 5,209 nautical miles) from Hong Kong to London, taking 22 hours and 42 minutes, while carrying airline representatives and media guests. This was logged into the Guinness World Records, and surpassed 777-200LR's operating range of 9,380 nautical miles (17,350 km).

In 2008, Boeing introduced the first 777 Freighter, based on the structural upgrades and engine specifications of the 777-200LR, with fuel tanks and landing gear derived from the 777-300ER. By 2007, sales of the next generation 777 family, comprised of the 777-200LR and 777-300ER, approached 350 aircraft, and the aircraft faced the possibility of increased competition from Airbus' planned A350 XWB and internally from proposed variants of the 787. In November 2007, Boeing announced that 777 production was sold out to 2012. According to industry reports, the current 777 may eventually be replaced by a new product family, the Boeing Yellowstone 3, which would draw upon technologies from the 787.

Design

Boeing introduced a number of advanced technologies with the 777 design, including fully digital fly-by-wire (electrically, rather than mechanically operated) flight controls, fully software-configurable avionics, Honeywell LCD glass cockpit flight displays, and the first use of a fiber optic avionics network on a commercial airliner. Boeing also made use of work done on the cancelled Boeing 7J7 regional jet, which utilized similar versions of the chosen technologies.

Boeing 777: American Airlines Boeing 777-223ER branded with Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s streaming pink ribbon. Photo (CC) Diorama Sky.Boeing 777: American Airlines Boeing 777-223ER branded with Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s streaming pink ribbon. Photo (CC) Diorama Sky.

The 777 wing employs a supercritical airfoil design that is swept back at 31.6 degrees and optimized for cruising at Mach 0.83 (revised upward after flight tests to Mach 0.84). The wing was designed with increased thickness and a longer span than previous airliners, resulting in improved payload and range, improved takeoff performance, and a higher cruising altitude than prior aircraft. Folding wingtips were offered when the 777 was launched, to appeal to airlines who might use the aircraft in gates made to accommodate smaller aircraft, but no airline purchased this option.

The 777's design incorporates the use of composite materials, which comprise nine percent of its original structural weight. Elements made from composite material include the cabin floor and rudder. The 777 also features the largest landing gear and the largest tires ever used in a commercial jetliner. Each main gear tire of a 777-300ER carries a maximum rated load of 64,583 lb (29,294 kg) when the aircraft is fully loaded, the heaviest load per tire of any production aircraft ever built.

In designing the 777 as its first fly-by-wire commercial aircraft, Boeing decided to retain conventional control yokes rather than fit sidestick controllers as used in many fly-by-wire fighter aircraft and in some Airbus transports. Boeing viewed the traditional yoke and rudder controls as being more intuitive for pilots. The 777 fly-by-wire system also incorporates envelope protection, a system which guides pilot inputs within a computer-calculated framework of operating parameters, acting to prevent stalls and overly stressful maneuvers. This system can be overridden by the pilot in command if deemed necessary.

Interior

The interior of the Boeing 777, also known as the Boeing Signature Interior, features curved panels, larger overhead bins, and indirect lighting. Seating options range from six abreast in first class up to ten across in economy. The 777's 15 in (380 mm) by 10 in (250 mm) windows are the largest of any current commercial airliner. The 777 cabin features "Flexibility Zones," a feature which allows quick reconfiguration of the cabin by airlines as needed. The flex-zone design entails deliberate placement of water, electrical, pneumatic, and other hook-ups throughout the cabin space, allowing airlines to quickly move seats, galleys, and lavatories when adjusting cabin arrangements.

In 2003, Boeing introduced overhead crew rests as an option on the 777. Located above the main cabin and connected via staircases, the forward flight crew rest contains two seats and two bunk beds, while the aft cabin crew rest features multiple bunk beds. The 777 has also been fitted with VIP interiors for non-airline use.

After its introduction on the 777, the Signature Interior has been used on other wide-body aircraft, including the 767-400ER, 747-400ER, and newer 767-200s and 767-300s. The interiors on the Next Generation 737 and the Boeing 757-300 narrowbodies also borrow elements from the 777 interior. Large, more rounded, 777-style windows have also been adopted for the 767-400ER, 747-8, and 787, with the upcoming 787 having even larger windows.

Variants

Boeing uses two characteristics to define their 777 models. The first is the fuselage length, which affects the number of passengers and amount of cargo that can be carried. The 777-200 and derivatives are the base size, and the aircraft was stretched into the 777-300 in 1998. The second characteristic is range. Boeing defined these three segments:

* A-market: 3,900 to 5,200 nautical miles (7,223 to 9,630 km)

* B-market: 5,800 to 7,700 nautical miles (10,742 to 14,260 km)

* C-market: 8,000 nautical miles (14,816 km) and greater

These markets are also used to compare the 777 to competitors such as the A340. When referring to variants of the 777, Boeing and the airlines often collapse the model (777) and the capacity designator (200 or 300) into a smaller form, either 772 or 773. Subsequent to that they may or may not append the range identifier. Accordingly, the base 777-200 may be referred to as a "772" or "772A", while a 777-300ER would be referred to as a "773ER", "773B" or "77W". Any of these notations may be found in aircraft manuals or airline timetables.

Initial models

777-200

The 777-200 (772A) was the initial A-market model. It is available with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) from 505,000 to 545,000 lb (229,000 to 247,000 kg) and range capability between 3,780 and 5,235 nautical miles (7,000 to 9,695 km). The -200 is powered by the 77,000 lbf (343 kN) PW4077, 77,000 lbf (343 kN) GE90-77B, or 76,000 lbf (338 kN) Trent 877 turbofans. A total of 88 -200s have been delivered to ten different customers, and 86 -200s were in airline service as of August 2008. The directly competing aircraft from Airbus is the A330-300.

777-200ER

The 777-200ER ("ER" for Extended Range) was originally known as the 777-200IGW (for "increased gross weight") and 777B (referring to its range market). The 777-200ER features additional fuel capacity, with increased MTOW range from 580,000 to 631,000 lb (263,000 to 286,000 kg), and range capability between 6,000 and 7,700 nautical miles (11,000 to 14,260 km). Engines offered for the 777-200ER include the 94,000 lbf (418 kN) GE90-94B, the 90,000 lbf (400 kN) PW4090, and the Trent 895. The Rolls-Royce Trent 800 series engine is the most common choice for operators of 777-200ER aircraft, with a market share of 43%, and is used on the majority of -200s, -200ERs and -300s.

The first 777-200ER, powered by 84,000 lbf (378 kN) GE90-85B engines, was delivered to British Airways in February 1997. In addition to breaking the eastbound great circle "Distance Without Landing" record, the 777-200ER also holds the record for the longest ETOPS-related emergency flight diversion (177 minutes under one engine), on a United Airlines Boeing 777-200ER carrying 255 passengers on March 17, 2003 over the southern Pacific Ocean.

As of November 2008, 408 777-200ERs had been delivered with 26 unfilled orders. As of August 2008, 397 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft were in airline service. The directly competing aircraft to the 777-200ER from Airbus are the A340-300 and the proposed A350-900.

777-300

The stretched A-market 777-300 (773A) was designed as a replacement for 747-100s and -200s. Compared to the older 747s, the stretched 777 has comparable passenger capacity and range, and is designed to burn one-third less fuel and have 40% lower maintenance costs. The 777-300 features a 33 ft 3 in (10.1 m) fuselage stretch over the baseline 777-200, allowing seating for up to 550 passengers in a single class high density configuration. The 777-300 is also 29,000 lb (13,000 kg) heavier, is equipped with a tailskid, and due to the aircraft's length, also includes ground maneuvering cameras mounted on the horizontal tail and underneath the forward fuselage to aid pilots during taxi. The maximum operating range is 6,015 nautical miles (11,135 km). The 777-300 is powered by the following engines: 90,000 lbf (400 kN) PW4090, 92,000 lbf (409 kN) Trent 892 or GE90-92B, or 98,000 lbf (436 kN) PW-4098 turbofans.

Since the debut of the 777-300, a total of 60 -300s have been delivered to eight different customers, and all were in airline service as of August 2008. However, following the introduction of the longer range -300ER in 2004, all operators have selected the ER version of the -300 model. The 777-300 has no direct Airbus rival, but the A340-600 is offered in competition.

Longer range models

777-200LR

The 777-200LR (772C) ("LR" for Longer Range) became the world's longest range commercial airliner when it entered service in 2006. Boeing named this plane the Worldliner, highlighting its ability to connect almost any two airports in the world, although it is still subject to ETOPS restrictions.

The 777-200LR is capable of flying 9,450 nautical miles (17,501 km, equivalent to 7/16 of the earth's circumference) in 18 hours. Developed alongside the 777-300ER, the 777-200LR achieves this with either 110,000 lbf (489 kN) thrust GE90-110B1 turbofans, or as an option, GE90-115B turbofans used on the -300ER. The -200LR features a significantly increased MTOW and three optional auxiliary fuel tanks manufactured by Marshall Aerospace in the rear cargo hold. Other new features include raked wingtips, a new main landing gear and additional structural strengthening.

The 777-200LR was initially proposed as a 777-100X, which would have been a shortened version of the 777-200 analogous to the 747SP. The shorter fuselage would allow more of the takeoff weight to be dedicated to fuel tankage, thus increasing the range. However, the aircraft would have carried fewer passengers while having similar operating costs, leading to a higher cost per seat. With the advent of more powerful engines, the 777-100X proposal was replaced by the 777-X program, which evolved into the 777-200LR.

The first 777-200LR was delivered to Pakistan International Airlines on February 26, 2006, furthering the carrier's plans to replace older aircraft with 777s. In November 2005, Air Canada confirmed an order for the 777-200LR. Also that month, Emirates Airline announced an order for 42 777s, including ten -200LRs. In 2006, Qatar Airways announced firm orders for the Boeing 777-200LR along with Boeing 777-300ER, and Delta Air Lines ordered five examples. As of November 2008, 22 777-200LR aircraft had been delivered with 27 unfilled orders. A total of 19 -200LRs were in airline service as of August 2008. The closest Airbus competing aircraft in the market is the A340-500HGW, and the proposed future A350-900R model.

777-300ER

The 777-300ER ("ER" for Extended Range) is the long range version of the 777-300 and contains many modifications, including GE90-115B engines, which are the world's most powerful jet engine with 115,300 lbf (513 kN) thrust. Other features include raked wingtips, a new main landing gear, extra fuel tanks (2,600 US gallons, 9,840 L), as well as strengthened fuselage, wings, empennage, nose gear, engine struts and nacelles, and a higher MTOW, 775,000 lb (347,450 kg) versus 660,000 lb (299,370 kg) for the 777-300. The maximum range is 7,930 nautical miles (14,685 km).

The 777-300ER's extra 1,935 nautical miles (3,550 km) range over the 777-300 is mainly due to the increase in the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW), along with the increased capacity for 2,600 gallons of additional fuel (45,220 to 47,890 US gal or 171,000 to 181,000 L). The -300ER weighs slightly more than the -300, and has engines that produce more thrust, but the -300ER can fly approximately 34% farther with a full load of passengers and cargo. After entering service, the 777-300ER demonstrated a 2% better fuel burn than expected, and further engine, wing, and weight modifications produced a 1.4% further reduction in fuel consumption. The first 777-300ER was delivered to Air France in April 2004. Since the introduction of the -300ER, all orders for the -300 series have been the ER variant.

The 777-300ER's direct competing aircraft from Airbus are the A340-600HGW and the proposed A350-1000. Over the last few years the 777, particularly the high gross weight 777-200ER and 777-300ER, have outsold the A340 by a wide margin. Although the larger GE90 engines on the 777-300ER burn considerably more fuel than the Trent 500s, using only two of them compared to four Trents has meant a typical operating cost advantage of around 8-9%.

The 365-seat 777-300ER is also replacing the 416-seat 747-400, which burns 20% more fuel per trip; airlines such as Air New Zealand have ordered 777-300ERs to replace their 747-400s. As fuel prices rise and airlines look to cut expenses while keeping their higher margin customers, operators have retained premium seating and reduced economy capacity on 777-300ER flights previously served by the 747-400; Japan Airlines has introduced semi-partitioned 777 "suites" that offer 20% more space than prior first class seating. A total of 163 777-300ERs had been delivered with 229 unfilled orders as of November 2008.

777 Freighter

The 777 Freighter (777F) is an all-cargo version of the 777-200LR. It amalgamates features from the 777-200LR and the 777-300ER, using the -200LR's structural upgrades and 110,000 lbf (489 kN) GE90-110B1 engines, combined with the fuel tanks and undercarriage of the -300ER. The 777F was launched on May 23, 2005 with the expectation of entering service in late 2008. Air France-KLM is the 777F launch customer, ordering five aircraft with deliveries starting in 2009. The 777F was unveiled in an official rollout ceremony in Everett, Washington on May 21, 2008, two days after a photo of the first 777 Freighter emerging from Boeing's paint hangar in Everett was released. The freighter took off on its inaugural flight on July 14, 2008 from Paine Field, Washington.

With a maximum payload of 227,000 lb (103,000 kg), the 777F's capacity is similar to the 243,000 lb (110,000 kg) of 747 freighters, with a nearly identical payload density. Customers have targeted the 777F as a replacement for older freighters such as the 747-200F, as the 777F promises improved operating economics compared to existing 220,000+ lb (100,000+ kg) payload freighters. With the same fuel capacity as the 777-300ER, the 777F will have a range of 4,895 nautical miles (9,065 km) at maximum payload, although greater range will be possible if less weight is carried. For example, carriers flying at lower density, emphasizing volume over weight, will be able to make farther flights. Rival Airbus currently has no comparable aircraft, but is developing two twinjet freighter models, the smaller A330-200F and the proposed A350-900F.

Boeing 777: American Airlines Boeing 777-223ER. Photo (CC) Diorama Sky.Boeing 777: American Airlines Boeing 777-223ER. Photo (CC) Diorama Sky.

On November 7, 2006, FedEx Express cancelled its order of ten Airbus A380-800Fs, citing the delays in delivery. FedEx Express said it would buy 15 777Fs instead, with an option to purchase 15 additional 777Fs, adding that timely availability of the aircraft and its capabilities influenced its decision. In December 2008 FedEx decided to postpone its 777F deliveries by up to 17 months. In January 2009, FedEx exercised its options to buy 15 more 777 Freighters with an additional 15 options. A total of 88 777Fs were on order as of November 2008.

777 Tanker (KC-777)

The KC-777 is a proposed tanker version of the 777. In September 2006, Boeing publicly announced that it was ready and willing to produce the KC-777, if the United States Air Force (USAF) requires a bigger tanker than the KC-767. In addition the tanker would be able to transport cargo or personnel. Boeing instead offered its KC-767 Advanced Tanker for USAF's KC-X competition in April 2007.

Incidents and accidents

As of December 2008, no fatalities among Boeing 777 passengers or crew have occurred. The only known fatality involving a Boeing 777 occurred in a refueling fire at Denver International Airport on September 5, 2001, during which a ground worker sustained fatal burns. The aircraft, operated by British Airways, suffered scorching of the wings, and was repaired and put back into service. The type's first hull loss occurred on January 17, 2008 when British Airways Flight 38, a Rolls-Royce Trent 895 engined 777-200ER flying from Beijing to London, crash-landed approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) short of London Heathrow Airport's runway 27L, and slid onto the runway's threshold. There were thirteen injuries and no fatalities. The impact damaged the landing gear, wing roots and engines. The cause of the crash landing is believed to have been the presence of ice in the fuel system restricting fuel flow to both engines.

On 26 November 2008, Delta Air Lines Flight 18 from Shanghai to Atlanta, also a 777-200ER with Rolls-Royce Trent 895 engines, experienced an uncommanded reduction in thrust of one engine while in cruise at 39,000 feet. The crew descended to 31,000 feet, followed manual recovery procedures and the flight continued without further incident. One of the U.S. NTSB investigators who worked on the BA Flight 38 investigation is making the inquiry into this incident, and on the lookout for any similarity between the two incidents. The NTSB preliminary report has been released.

Operators

The customers that have received the most 777s are ILFC, Emirates Airline, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines. A total of 714 Boeing 777 aircraft (all variants) were in airline service as of August 2008, with Singapore Airlines (75), Emirates Airline (59), United Airlines (52), Air France (51), American Airlines (47), All Nippon Airways (42), British Airways (42), Japan Airlines (40), Cathay Pacific (25), Saudi Arabian Airlines (23) and other operators with fewer aircraft of the type.

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