The Boeing Company has decided to delay the development of the smaller variant of the new 777x series, the 777-8. This decision has come shortly after there have been rumblings of Airbus officially launching its A350-1000ULR.
The 777-8 rollout has been delayed until at least 2021, with entry into service unlikely before the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023. The 777-9, the larger variant of the 777x family, was rolled out to employees in March of this year. The first flight was planned for this quarter but has since been pushed back into 2020 following the discovery of an engine issue with the GE9X engines. These engines have been specifically developed for the 777X. It is likely that the first delivery of the 777-9 will be pushed into 2021 after the latest delays.
The first two 777-9 aircraft have been completed and have been completing ground based testing in Everett, Washington.
The 777-8 is expected to be able to seat approximately 380 passengers, which is slightly larger than the A350-1000’s 365 passenger capacity.
The Boeing 777-8 does not have much customer support. Airlines have ordered just 45 777-8 aircraft compared to 280 orders for the 777-9. The orders have come from Emirates with 35 aircraft on order and Qatar Airways with 10 more on order Both airlines operate the Boeing 777-200LR, the longest range version of the current 777 family.
Emirates is reportedly re-negotiating its order for the 150 777x aircraft it has planned. It is possible that Emirates will convert a portion of orders to the 787-10, an aircraft of slightly smaller size with significantly less range at only 7,400 miles compared to the 10,000 mile range of the 777-8. The 787-10 is cheaper to operate than the 777-8 and capable of transporting more than 300 passengers on all but the longest of Emirates’ routes. The 10,000 mile range is unnecessary on most of Emirates routes. Emirates is reportedly interested in the A350-1000ULR, which would be a viable replacement for the 777-200LR fleet. The 777-200LR is smaller than the 777-8 by about 60 seats and is closer in size to the A350-900, which can fly up to 11,000 miles.
Despite potentially adjusting its 777X order, Emirates remains committed to being the launch customer of the 777X in late 2020 or early 2021.
The A350-1000ULR is expected to have a range of almost 11,000 miles. The 777-8, Boeing’s longest range aircraft, is supposed to have a range of just under 10,000 miles as previously mentioned. If the 777-8 is eventually launched it will be Boeing’s longest range commercial jet ever built.
Boeing has stated “The adjustment reduces risk in our development program, ensuring a more seamless transition to the 777-8. We continue to engage with our current and potential customers on how we can meet their fleet needs. This includes our valued customer Qantas.” The Boeing 777-8 is one of the two main competitors in Qantas’s project sunrise.
This statement indicates that Boeing wants to ensure that the 777-9 is smoothly transitioned into service with no issues. This comes after its 737MAX aircraft has gained a poor reputation since its entry into service due to two crashes.
Another potential factor for the delay in the development of the 777-8 is the current grounding of the 737 MAX. It is possible that Boeing is dedicating as many resources as possible to the 737 MAX to get it back into the air as soon as possible. The 737MAX, Boeing’s most profitable commercial aircraft, has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes related to a faulty software program.
Boeing’s stock has dropped by 30% since the announcement of the 737 MAX grounding.