Boeing 777x: Disturbing patterns of similarity.

By Ankur Deo | January 13, 2020

The Boeing 777 has been one of the most iconic aircraft across the aviation industry ever since its induction in June 1995. It would be right to say that it is one of those planes that is endeared by passengers, airlines and aviation geeks alike! In fact, in March 2018, the 777 had become the most-produced wide-body jet by Boeing, surpassing the Boeing 747.

However, in the times where modern airplanes are aiming for an epitome of efficiency, comfort and technology, the older and outdated Boeing 777 had started to show its age; and hence, in 2013, in response to the much greener and sophisticated Airbus A350, Boeing unveiled the 777x program.

The unveiling of the 777x in April 2019, which was conducted by Boeing internally. Image Credits: Air Current

The 777x was initially scheduled to fly for the first time in 2019. However, issues with the new GE9x engines created a multitude of impediments for Boeing engineers. To worsen the situation, on September 5, 2019, a cargo door blew off the 777x static test air-frame during the ultimate load test, which is conducted with the airplane stressed and pressurized beyond normal operating limits. Contributing to this havoc, Boeing now has to deal with the 737MAX grounding issues, and this is where more alarm bells start ringing! The internal emails among Boeing employees working on the 737 MAX development program, which have recently been made public, have revealed some underlying problems with the company’s safety culture.

In a letter dated June 2018, an unidentified Boeing employee described the problems caused during development and qualification of Boeing’s MAX simulators by outlining issues such as selection of the lowest cost supplier, and sacrificing quality and safety in favour of time to market. Further, a similar approach was followed for the 777x program as well.

Following the second MAX crash, Boeing had to unveil the 777x internally, without calling for much media attention. The new plane is now scheduled to take to the skies for the first time in early 2020, with its first delivery to Lufthansa scheduled in 2021. However, the parallels between the ill-fated 737 MAX and the 777x programs do exist. While the 737 MAX was Boeing’s answer to the well engineered Airbus A320neo, the 777x is their response to the so far fantastically performing A350. Plagued with engine problems and questions about structural issues, the 777x program and has certainly raised a few eyebrows.

Image Credits: Boeing

While Boeing is already finding a hard time to figure the 737 MAX mess, flaws in the development and implementation of the 777x program would most certainly leave them struggling further. The 777-200s and 300s have proven their mettle by being one of safest breeds around, and the 777x has a lot to carry on its shoulders. Lets just hope it has what it takes to carry the legacy on!

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