SEATTLE - At 233 feet, the wingspan of Boeing's 777X promises to be wider than that of the company's newest 747. So in order to get into some airport gates, the outer 10 feet of each wing will fold up, not unlike military planes that fly off of aircraft carriers. It was option on the first 777's introduced in the 1990s, but then no airline ordered them. This time they'll be standard equipment.
Boeing is in the middle of upgrading just about every plane in its fleet, and the 777 is just one of them. Boeing now says 777X, will receive a composite wing scaled up from the 787, and much longer. The body will remain aluminum but will likely see bigger windows to more closely emulate the experience passengers are now getting on the 787.
In fact, the passenger research that went into creating a better flying experience for passengers aboard the 787 Dreamliner are being applied across the board to other Boeing planes. Thinner ribs, or frames inside the 777X body should also make the interior space a bit wider. How that's going to happen is still being engineered.
Currently, the 787-9 Dreamliner is in flight testing. The "Dash-9" is longer, carries 40 more seats and has a longer range than the 787-8. The first jet should be delivered to Air New Zealand mid-summer if the flight test program wraps up on time. Currently it is on schedule, a big improvement from the three years of delays, battery problems and other complications that the first 787-8 faced in its development.
The upgrades go smaller too. The new more fuel efficient 737-MAX with new engines, and new cockpit displays should be ready to carry passengers in 2017. The company is offering families of jets in different sizes for the 737 MAX, 787 and 777.
Airlines flying the bigger jets can have a single type rating for pilots allowing them to be qualified on both the 787, 777X and even the current 777-300ER (For extended range.) with some additional training.