Boeing 777 - The Largest Twin Engine Jumbo

 

These days, the queen of the skies when it comes to twin-engine jumbo jets is the Boeing 777; an aircraft that revolutionized long distance travel.  Boeing's 777 was born out of a design that fit nicely into their wide-body product line well; the aircraft was sized between the 767-300ER and the larger 747-400.  Commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven", the 777 incorporates the largest diameter jet engines on any aircraft, six-wheel main bogie landing gear, fully circular fuselage cross-section, and a blade-shaped tail cone.

The entire design phase for the 777 was very different from Boeing's previous commercial jetliners. For the first time ever, eight major airlines - All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and United Airlines - had a substantial role in the development of the aircraft. The eight airlines that contributed to the design process became known within Boeing as the "Working Together" group, and this is evident on the prototype 777. By March 1990, Boeing and the eight airlines had decided upon a basic design configuration: a cabin cross-section close to the 747's, capacity up to 325 passengers, flexible interiors, a glass cockpit, fly-by-wire controls, and ten percent better seat-mile costs than the competing Airbus A330 and McDonnell Douglas MD-11. United Airlines became the 777's launch customer in October of 1990 when it placed an order for thirty-four Pratt & Whitney-powered aircraft valued at US$11 billion with options on an additional thirty-four aircraft.

The 777 was the first commercial aircraft designed entirely by computer. Each design drawing was created on a three-dimensional CAD software system which let engineers assemble a "virtual" aircraft, in simulation, to check for interference and verify that the thousands upon thousands of parts fit properly, reducing any costly rework.  Production of the aircraft included a substantial amount of international content, with Mitsubishi and Kawasaki in Japan building fuselage panels, Fuji in Japan building the center wing section, Hawker de Havilland building the elevators, and Aerospace Technologies of Australia building the rudder. All of these parts would come together at Boeing's final assembly point in Everett, Washington, which had been doubled in size to accommodate the 777.

The first aircraft was rolled out on April 9, 1994, with the first flight taking place on June 12, 1994.  An eleven month test program with nine aircraft fitted with General Electric GE90, Pratt & Whitney PW4084, and Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines commenced, concluding with the first aircraft being delivered to United Airlines in May 1995.  The FAA awarded Extended Twin-Engine Operations (ETOPS) clearance of 180 minutes for the PW4084-powered 777-200s by the end of May 1995.

Boeing turned its attention to an increased gross weight version, which became the 777-200ER, and for a while, became the best selling version of the aircraft with well over 400 delivered.  October 1997 also saw the first flight of the 777-300, a version whose fuselage was stretched a further thirty-three feet from the 777-200 and 777-200ER.  Eighty-eight 777-300s were delivered to airlines and the version has not sold since the extended range variant was introduced.

Even longer range variants of the Boeing 777 were introduced in the 2000s.  The 777-300ER made its first flight in February 2003 and first delivered to launch customer Air France in April 2004.  The 777-300ER essentially took the added capacity of the 777-300 with the range of the 777-200ER into an airframe with unprecedented economics; so much so that airlines envisioned the 777-300ER to replace their fleets of 747-400s.  Boeing also introduced the 777-200LR, which first flew in March 2005 and entered service in February 2006 with Pakistan International Airlines.  The 777-200LR held the mark as having the longest range of any airliner and was virtually capable of connecting almost any two major cities anywhere in the world.  A freighter version emerged as the 777F, which was derived from the 777-200LR.  All three aircraft feature an extended wingspan with raked wingtips and are exclusively powered by the General Electric GE90-115B engine, which is capable of delivering over 100,000 pounds of thrust.  While only fifty-nine 777-200LRs have been delivered and an increasing number of 777F aircraft being delivered, well over 750 of the 777-300ER have been ordered and that has easily become the best selling variant of the 777.

The future for the 777 family looks bright.  Boeing is currently working on developing two new versions under the 777X program.  The company intends to roll out the 777-9, which is a much larger variant than the 777-300ER.  The 777-9 in essence will combine the 777-300ER size airframe in a slightly longer aircraft and feature range similar to what is offered today on the 777-200LR.  The 777-8 will be stretched approximately twenty feet from the 777-200LR and will feature more range than the 777-200LR currently offers.  Both aircraft will feature the General Electric GE9X-105B1A engine, capable of delivering 105,000 pounds of thrust.  In addition, to fit the 777-8 and 777-9 in current airport gates that will allow aircraft like the 777-300ER, the newest 777s will feature an airline first - folding wingtips.  More than 300 aircraft are on order, and the 777-9 will likely make its first flight in the first half of 2019.

Photos in the slideshow were taken between August 2015 and December 2017.  Apologies for the large copyrights in each photo - this is necessary in this day and age where photos are widely stolen and passed along as if they are one's own.