A Boeing branded 777X-9 sits at Boeing’s facility in Everett after it was announced that their 777X model will make its first test flight later in the week in Everett, Washington, January 21, 2020.
Lindsey Wasson | Reuters
Boeing‘s 777X, part of a new generation of the wide-body aircraft, took off in its maiden flight — marking a milestone for the company struggling through the increasing fallout from two fatal crashes of its best-selling 737 Max. Bad weather postponed attempts at the first flight on Thursday and again on Friday.
The first flight, which took off from Everett, Washington, is part of testing that will occur throughout the year as the company works toward winning regulatory approval, which promises to be more stringent after the crashes of the 737 Max. Those planes have been grounded since March after the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people.
Boeing had aimed to first fly the 777X, a plane it launched at the 2013 Dubai Air Show, last year but the company faced delays because of snags with the General Electric GE9X engines, the largest aircraft engine in the world.
The plane is the largest twin-engine jet ever built and has a wingspan so wide — more than 235 feet — it features folding wingtips that reduce that width by more than 20 feet so the plane can fit into various airport taxiways and gates. The 777X-9 is slightly longer than Boeing’s most iconic plane: the hump-backed 747, which is fading away as airlines opt for more twin-engine aircraft that require less fuel.
The 777X faces its own challenges. Orders for wide-body jets have slowed and several airlines have signed up for rival Airbus’ long-range single-aisle A321XLR planes. The 777X, which lists for $422.2 million although airlines usually receive discounts, can fit up to 426 passengers in a two-class configuration. Boeing had 344 firm orders for the 777X at the end of the third quarter, according to a company filing, and Emirates is its biggest single customer.