Boeing’s 777X passenger plane taxies down the runway for its first flight from Paine Field in Everett to Boeing Field in Seattle on Jan. 25, 2020. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Boeing’s 777X passenger plane taxies down the runway for its first flight from Paine Field in Everett to Boeing Field in Seattle on Jan. 25, 2020. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

$20B order launches Boeing 777X freighter, a boost for Everett

The order for up to 50 of the new 777-8F by Qatar Airways was announced Monday at the White House.

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. announced Monday it will launch a 777X freighter, a variant of the airplane maker’s new, largest twin-engine passenger plane.

The freighter version, to be known as the 777-8F, will be built at the company’s massive assembly plant at Paine Field. The announcement was accompanied by an order for up to 50 of the new freighters by Qatar Airways, one of the world’s largest air cargo carriers.

Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing’s commercial airline division, told the The Daily Herald in an interview that the airplane’s launch and Qatar’s order is expected to require “some modest increase” in employment at the Everett assembly plant, which currently employs about 30,000 people in three shifts.

The $20 billion order represents the largest freighter commitment in Boeing history by value, the company said.

Deal inked the agreement with Qatar on Monday at the White House. The airline order includes 34 firm orders and an option for 16 more of the new freighters.

Boeing had already announced this month that it would step up production of the 777 and 777X models, from two to three per month.

The company expects to deliver the new freighter in 2027. “So it creates a great continuity in employment,” Deal said.

The 777-8F cargo plane, as it will be known and which differs from the 777X passenger version, requires new certification by federal regulators, Deal said.

“It will have a brand-new cargo door and a different body length than the current version, slightly shorter,” Deal said. “Then you have all the structural changes that will be incorporated in terms of carrying the payload on the main deck. You make this airplane stronger.”

“Another new feature, working with Qatar Airways,” Deal added, “is ushering in a new set of capabilities logistically. Think about wireless capabilities within the cabin, better logistics management when the airplane lands. So the airplane provides greater capability for them to be handling cargo for their customers.”

Stan Deal

Stan Deal

The 777-8F freighter competes with Airbus’ new freighter version of the A350, which the European plane maker unveiled last year.

The 777-8F is designed to carry 110 metric tons, over 9 metric tons more than the A350, while burning about 4% less fuel, “and more importantly about 4% less carbon,” Deal said.

“In a world where sustainability has become extremely important, I don’t know why anybody would choose an airplane that has more emissions than this airplane,” Deal said. “Qatar Airways clearly made that choice and we expect more airlines to follow.”

Deal said the launch of the 777-8F also means more work for Boeing’s supplier base, which numbers in the thousands across the United States and includes some 200 Snohomish County-based companies.

“It adds more work in about 38 states,” said Deal, who thanked all of Boeing’s employees for their work. “This doesn’t happen with one person. It is the Boeing team that has earned the confidence and the trust of Qatar Airways.”

The order will sustain more than 35,000 jobs and provide the American economy with an annual estimated economic impact of $2.6 billion during the contract’s delivery period, the company claimed.

Air freight is typically more expensive than ocean shipping. But with supply chain disruptions hindering the maritime cargo industry’s delivery schedule — a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic — the demand for air freight has risen, Boeing spokeswoman Jessica Kowal said.

Boeing logged a record number of freighter orders in 2o21, Kowal said.

As part of Monday’s agreement, Qatar Airways will convert 20 of 60 orders for 777X passenger planes to the 777-8 Freighter. Qatar Airways is also ordering two current-generation 777 freighters.

Boeing and Qatar Airways also signed a memorandum of understanding for a firm order of 25 737-10 aircraft, the largest of the Max passenger jets, as well as purchase rights for 25 more airplanes. The total value of the 737-10 commitment is nearly $7 billion.

The 777-8 freighter will be the world’s largest twin-engine cargo jet with a range of 4,410 nautical miles. It is expected to offer a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency over the 747-400 freighter, produce less emission per ton and cost less to operate, spokeswoman Kowal said.

The 777 freighter is intended to replace the 747-400 freighter. The final 747 is expected to be delivered in October to Atlas Air, ending production of the 747 series.

Over time, the new 777-8F would replace the current 777 freighter, Kowal said.

At the White House, Deal was joined by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Qatar Ambassador Sheikh Mishaal bin Hamad Al Thani, White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese and Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. The group witnessed the formal signing by Deal and Qatar Airways Group’s chief executive, Akbar Al Baker.

“Boeing has a long history of building market-leading freighter aircraft,” said Al Baker, “and Qatar Airways is honored to have the opportunity to be the launch customer for the 777-8 Freighter, an aircraft which will not only allow us to further enhance our product offering for our customers, but also help us meet our objectives to deliver a sustainable future for our business.”

“Today marks a great day in the ever-building and strong relationship between Qatar Airways and Boeing,” Al Baker added. “We certainly push Boeing hard to deliver upon our expectations, and the team at Boeing consistently strives to meet and exceed our expectations.”

Qatar Airways’ current cargo division consists of an all-Boeing fleet of 747 and current-generation 777 freighters.

“We are proud that Boeing provides over 90% of the world’s dedicated freighter capacity,” Deal said.

Boeing’s wide-body family features engineering design improvements and innovative technologies, including a new carbon-fiber composite wing and new fuel-efficient engines.

At the Everett plant, Boeing currently produces the 767 and a military version of the 767, the KC-46 tanker, along with the 747 and 777 models.

Boeing lists 253 firm orders for the 777X passenger version, which can carry more 400 people. But with international flights and business travel depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production of the passenger version has been slowed.

The 777X passenger plane’s debut has been delayed by three years due to federal regulators’ concerns. The airplane is expected to be delivered to the company’s airline customers in late 2023.

Janice Podsada;; 425-339-3097; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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