Boeing has finished building the fuselage section of the first 777X flight test aircraft.
In what the company described in a statement on November 20 (US time) as a major production milestone, the aircraft has completed the “final body join”, where the nose, mid and aft sections are connected.
Boeing vice president and general manager of the 777X program Josh Binder said the project was progressing on schedule.
“With the 777X, the production system was integrated into the development program sooner than any other airplane, and the team is doing a great job of hitting our milestones as expected,” Binder said in a statement.
We are joining together the first #777X flight test airplane! Great progress as we prepare for flight test in 2019. Learn more about the 777X: https://t.co/7twGuVZU1i #Boeing #Avgeek pic.twitter.com/p0yDkfgsV5
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) November 20, 2018
The “final body join” of the first flight test aircraft follows the assembly of a 777X that will be used for ground testing, in mid-September.
The 777X family of aircraft comprises the 777-8X and 777-9X variants. The pair is an upgrade from Boeing’s in-production 777-200LR and and 777-300ER.
The 777-8X and 777-9X will be powered by General Electric GE9X engines. Flight tests for those engines began in March 2018.
Other new features include composite wings with folding wingtips to maintain its Code E rating at airports, as well as in-cabin enhancements such as larger overhead stowage and a wider cross section.
The first wing structures for the 777-9X were completed in May.
Further, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had certified the folding wingtips that will be featured on the 777X program.
The 777-9X is 77 metres in length, has a total wingspan of 72 metres and is capable of flying 7,600nm when carrying 400-425 passengers in a two-class configuration according to Boeing figures.
Meanwhile, the 777-8X is still in development and yet to reach firm configuration. The Boeing website lists the aircraft as having a range of 8,700nm and a passenger capacity of 350-375 passengers. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2022.
The 777X is a candidate for Qantas’s Project Sunrise challenge to Airbus and Boeing to have an aircraft capable of operating nonstop between Australia’s east coast and New York and London.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told the South China Morning Post both Airbus and Boeing were making good progress on producing an aircraft that met the airline’s requirements for payload and range on these ultra long haul routes.
“Both [Boeing and Airbus] have made really good progress from where we started in the capabilities of the critical missions from Melbourne and Sydney to London and New York,” Joyce told the newspaper on November 13.
“Our belief is [ultra-long-haul flights are] not going to be full passenger payload and freight, but there is sufficient capability to make it commercially viable.”
There have been 326 orders for the 777-X program at the end of October 2018, according to the Boeing website.
Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said at the company’s third quarter results briefing on October 24 it had started building 777-X flight test aircraft on the low-rate initial production line.
“We plan to start flight testing in 2019 and remain on track for the first 777-X delivery in 2020,” Muilenburg said.
“As we transition production to the 777-X, we expect 777 deliveries of approximately 3.5 per month through 2019 as previously announced.”
Boeing said three additional flight test aircraft will also be built.
VIDEO: A October 4 2018 video from the Boeing Livestream page that looks at the 777-X’s folding wingtips.