An artist’s rendering of the Boeing 777X. (Boeing Co.)

An artist’s rendering of the Boeing 777X. (Boeing Co.)

Boeing 777X first flight delayed until at least Friday

The program is a year behind schedule due to a problem with the plane’s General Electric engines.

UPDATE, 1/22 at 7 p.m.: Boeing late Wednesday said the flight would be delayed due to weather: “We are postponing the 777X first flight that was scheduled to take place tomorrow, Jan. 23, due to weather. The team is currently assessing the possibility of flying on Friday, January 24 and will notify you as soon as we have a new date.”


EVERETT — After a months of delays, Boeing will take the 777X aloft for its first test flight Thursday morning.

The twin-aisle jet, built at Boeing’s main wide-body assembly plant in Everett, is scheduled to take off from Paine Field at 10 a.m. for what is planned to be a five-hour flight. The date could change due to weather and other factors, Boeing said.

If the test flight goes as planned, the 777X is expected to land at Seattle’s Boeing Field around 3 p.m.

The 777X, the company’s biggest capacity twin-engine passenger jet, is designed to carry more than 400 people.

Chicago-based Boeing has boasted that the 777X will be 10% more efficient than its rival, the Airbus A-350-1000. But first it has to pass a barrage of tests and regulatory scrutiny.

The first flight has been delayed by trouble with General Electric’s GE9X engines. The program is now behind schedule by about a year.

Barring any major obstacles, delivery of the first 777X isn’t expected to occur until early 2021. Even after a successful test flight, it can take a year or more for a new plane to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. In light of the certification process that gave a pass to a faulty control system on the 737 Max, the process for the 777X is likely to be more rigorous.

The 777X’s most distinctive design features are its carbon-composite wings and 11-foot folding wingtips. The design increases lift and reduces fuel consumption while still accommodating airports served by the present 777 series.

“This beautiful wing — 235 foot span — the span of this wing gives an enormous amount of lift capability while we minimize the drag with the composite wing technology, keeping the overall drag of the airplane low,” said Terry Beezhold, the project’s former chief engineer, in a 2017 company video. Beezhold has since been moved to another Boeing division.

“We also want (the plane) to be compatible at all of the airports that the current 777 operates in and out of. For that reason we developed the folding wingtip so that in flight we can enjoy this very long efficient span but be able to operate at any, any airport, any gate that today’s 777 can service,” Beezhold said.

While folding wings are common on military aircraft, this is the first time a commercial jet has sported folding wings.

Like the 737 Max, the 777X has been reconfigured for a bigger engine, in this case the world’s largest.

Customers had pressed Boeing since 2011 for an updated 777,” Kevin Michaels wrote in his 2018 book, “Aerodynamic: Inside the High-Stakes Global Jetliner Ecosystem.”

In 2013, Boeing received board of directors approval to offer a re-engined 777.

The test flight for the 777X was scheduled to take place last summer. After the engine problems were discovered, a first flight was expected in the fall, then delayed.

The test flight could be a morale boost for the company’s workers. Some of those who work on the 737 line in Renton were temporarily reassigned to Everett after Boeing suspended production of the Max this month. The 737 Max was grounded worldwide last March after it was involved in two fatal crashes within five months that killed 346 people. Boeing is not expected to resume production of the 737 Max until regulators re-certify it.

On Tuesday, Boeing said it now estimates that the 737 Max won’t be cleared for service until the middle of the year.

“This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process. It is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process,” Boeing said in a statement.

“It also accounts for the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory authorities are rightly applying at every step of their review of the 737 MAX’s flight control system and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board process which determines pilot training requirements,” the statement said.

Boeing, Washington’s largest employer, will announce 2019 fourth-quarter earnings on Jan. 29. The publicly disclosed losses from the 737 Max grounding, already in the billions of dollars, are expected to grow.

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

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