Boeing 777X First Flight

The 777X is Boeing’s newest widebody and twin-engine aircraft. It will continue the legacy of the famous 777 while offering the latest in technology, design, and space. A lot of the technology is based on the 787 Dreamliner. Because the wingspan of the 777X is 8m (26.2ft) wider than the one of a 777-300ER, Boeing added folding wingtips to fit the plane at the airport gates. I work a lot with heavy equipment and every moving part is a potential point of failure. Not that I don’t want the plane to be great and successful, but let’s see how long it will take until there is a “maintenance issue” with the folding wingtips. The idea of these wingtips is actually great.

Boeing 777-9 (N779XW) with folded up wingtips

Under each of the composite wings, you will find a GE9X engine, developed by General Electric for the 777X. These high-bypass turbofan engines will power every 777X and it is one of the most fuel-efficient engines today. The GE9X is the largest jet-engine as of today and is based on the GE90 which powers current models of the 777.

There will be two versions of the new 777 initially, a 777-9 and a 777-8. There are talks about a freighter based on the 777X and eventually a 777-10X.

All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines have already pre-ordered 777-9 airplanes. The scheduled entering into service of the new 777X is scheduled for 2021.

777 Comparison

 777-9777-8777-300ER
Length251 ft 9 in (76.7 m)229 ft 0 in (69.8 m)242 ft 4 in / 73.86 m
Width20 ft 4 in (6.20 m)20 ft 4 in / 6.20 m
Wingspan238 ft 10 in (72.8 m), 212 ft 7 in (64.8 m) folded212 ft 7 in / 64.80 m
Height64 ft 7 in (19.7 m)64 ft 0 in (19.5 m)60 ft 8 in / 18.5 m
Maximum Take-Off Weight775,000 lb (351,533 kg)775,000 lb (351,533 kg)
Range7,285 nmi / 13,500 km8,730 nmi / 16,170 km7,370 nmi / 13,649 km
Seats (2-Class Configuration)426384396

First Flight

In the next phase of the rigorous test program, the plane will take its first flight. This flight will be conducted by the aircraft with the registration number N779XW. It is a variant of the 777-9.

The 777X will take off from Paine Field, which is the right next to Boeing’s Everett factory, for its first flight. Due to test criteria, the aircraft has to take off towards North which will bring it over the water instead of populated areas. However, Paine Field is now a commercial airport again with scheduled flights. The usual runway operation is towards the south to take off into the wind instead of with a tailwind. Unfortunately, the weather in the Pacific Northwest is not very favorable for test flights during the beginning of the year. Lots of rain and wind are very common. That’s why it took multiple days to get the plane actually to take off.

Day 1 (January 23, 2020)

The test flight for that day got scrubbed already the day before.

Day 2 (January 24, 2020)

This was supposed to be the day when it should happen. Spoiler Alert! It didn’t!. N779XW was scheduled to take off around 10 a.m. PST from Paine Field. Unfortunately, lots of rain and high winds forced Boeing to cancel the test flight on this day as well. Wins of up to 10knts would be acceptable but we reached more than twice that.

I was actually able to make it to Paine Field just shortly after 10 a.m. and was worried that I won’t get a good spot to watch the plane take off. My concerns were unfounded. First I tried to get a spot at the Future of Flight Museum but the parking lot was full and they didn’t let anyone in anymore. I went down the road to the Historic Flight Foundation, which is located right next to the runway.

I was standing on a small hill next to the perimeter fence for 3.5 hours and defying the elements. I wasn’t too worried about me, as I was dressed accordingly with a waterproof jacket and ready for the cold winds. My biggest worry was my camera getting rained on over and over again. During heavy showers, I walked back to my car to dry the camera off and protect it. The plane wouldn’t take off anyway. N779XW was sitting just short of the runway at the south end and right in front of our eyes. This was the perfect spot to watch the plane take off.

At least there was a small show going on as Paine Field has now commercial service again and other Boeing planes were landing and taking off. The highlight for me was seeing the Dreamlifter land at PAE (Paine Field) and shortly thereafter, taking off again. Besides that, we were able to see commercial jetliners of Alaska Airlines and United Airlines land and take off. As well as countless small aircraft.

The webcast had at times 60k viewers watching a shaky image of an airplane sitting at an airport and not going anywhere. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think so? 😉

Day 3 (January 25, 2020)

Boeing will try again on January 25, 2020, at around 10 a.m. PST. Watch the live webcast on Boeing’s website.

As with most things in life, the third time’s a charm. The world’s biggest twin-engine plane successfully lifted off from Paine Field. Today, I was actually an hour early. My plan was to watch the plane taking off from the Boeing Future of Flight​ Museum. I lined up on a small hill next to the museum. Many people came out to watch the plane lift off. This time the wind was relatively calm and rain came in just as the plane took off. It was amazing to see the 777X take off with the chase plane next to it. Unfortunately, just before take off the sun broke through the clouds and I got the worst position. The plane flew straight in between me and the sun. Shortly thereafter it disappeared.

It concluded its 4-hour long test flight in Eastern Washington before touching down at Boeing Field, just south of Seattle. The flight path looked as it would come in from the south to land. That’s how I positioned myself to get good pictures of the plane. As the plane got close and “missed” its turn, I got worried that it will be coming in from the north. I was able to reposition myself at the other end of the runway just a few minutes before the 777X became visible on this very cloudy day. Of course, it had to start raining right when the new plane touched down.

777X Test Flight Route

After touching down, the 777X taxied back towards the north end where it got pulled in front of one of Boeing’s hangars. Rain just wouldn’t stop and that’s why the pictures are not that clear. Either way, it was a great day to be part of aviation history.

Conclusion

During these two days chasing this plane back and forth, I made many friends with aviation enthusiasts. Events like this are amazing. I really can’t wait until the plane enters commercial service. It will be still a few more months before that happens. In the meantime, I will capture more photos of planes, maybe even more of a 777X during another test flight.

More Photos

All of the photos I took during these two days, can be found here.

Upcoming Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Menu