What just happened? Boeing's new 7779-X airliner has successfully completed its maiden flight, lasting nearly four hours, after a few delays caused by technical difficulties and poor weather conditions. The achievement comes amidst the company's ongoing crisis with its best-selling 737 Max and could help in restoring some of the firm's troubled reputation.
The 777-9X is Boeing's latest widebody commercial airliner that recently took to the skies for its first successful test flight and could prove to be a silver lining of the dark clouds looming over the company since the grounding of the 737 Max last year.
At 251 feet (77.7 m) long, the 777-9 variant of the 777X family is the longest commercial plane yet, with a capacity for carrying 426 passengers in a typical two-class seat layout. A pair of powerful and efficient GE9X engines provide propulsion for a range of up to 7,285 nautical miles (13,500 km), taking it further than its predecessor, the 777-300ER.
The engines are attached to the plane's giant carbon-composite wings, each having a wingspan of over 233 feet (71 m), the largest-ever created by Boeing. These feature folding tips for getting the plane through existing airport gates and taxiways and are lowered when the jet lines up for takeoff.
After its nearly four-hour test flight on Saturday, Van Chaney, Boeing's chief test pilot, said that aircraft "flew beautifully" and thanked the teams responsible. "Our Boeing team has taken the most successful twin-aisle jet of all time and made it even more efficient, more capable and more comfortable for all," said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
The company now plans to conduct a comprehensive series of tests for the 777X to demonstrate its safety and reliability and expects deliveries to begin late next year. The plane will cost about $204 million after applying standard discounts, with buyers including ANA, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.