6/12/1994: First Flight of the Boeing 777

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the Boeing 777 performed its first flight in 1994 under the command of chief test pilot John E. Cashman. This was the start of an 11-month flight test program, which was longer than any prior Boeing model’s testing. 

The Boeing 777, often known as the Triple Seven, is a wide-body airliner developed and produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes in the United States. It is the largest twinjet in the world. The 777 was created to fill the gap between Boeing’s 767 and 747 aircraft, as well as to replace outdated DC-10 and L-1011 aircraft.

Nine aircraft equipped with General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce engines were flight tested in a variety of environments, including the desert airfield at Edwards Air Force Base in California and the freezing weather at Fairbanks International Airport in Alaska. Eight 180-minute single-engine test flights were completed to meet ETOPS standards.

With the first meeting in January 1990, the program was developed in conjunction with eight major airlines and debuted on October 14, 1990, with an order from United Airlines (UA). On April 9, 1994, the prototype was released. On June 7, 1995, the Triple Seven was delivered to its first customer.

Longer-range models were introduced on February 29, 2000, and first delivered on April 29, 2004.

The Boeing 777-100 trijet concept. Photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Public Domain


The Boeing 747, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar were the first wide-body passenger aircraft to enter service in the early 1970s. In 1978, Boeing introduced three new models: the Boeing 757 twin-engine jet to replace the 727; the Boeing 767 twin-engine jet to compete with the Airbus A300; and a trijet 777 to compete with the DC-10 and L-1011.

Due in part to extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards (ETOPS) regulations governing transoceanic twinjet operations in the 1980s, the mid-size Boeing 757 and 767 launched to market success.

These rules permitted twin-engine planes to fly across the ocean at a distance of up to three hours from emergency diversionary airports. Airlines began using the Boeing 767 on long-distance international routes that did not require the capacity of larger aircraft under ETOPS restrictions.

After marketing studies revealed that the Boeing 757 and 767 types were preferred, the trijet 777 was eventually abandoned. Between the 767-300ER and the 747-400, Boeing had a size and range gap in its product line.

By 1988, Boeing had realized that a new clean-sheet design, the 777 twin-jet, was the only way to go. Given previous design accomplishments, future engine improvements, and cost savings, the business chose the twin-engine arrangement. Boeing began making proposals to airlines for the 777 on December 8, 1989.

The two-crew glass cockpit uses fly-by-wire controls. Photo: Transaero 777. Alex Pereslavtsev, derivative work: Altair78 (talk), GFDL 1.2

Design of the Triple Seven

Alan Mulally was the director of engineering for the Boeing 777 program before being elevated to vice-president and general manager in September 1992. The new twinjet’s design phase was distinct from that of Boeing’s prior commercial jetliners.

For the first time, eight major airlines – All Nippon Airways (NH), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Delta Air Lines (DL), Japan Airlines (JL), Qantas (QF), and UA – were involved in the development, which was a departure from industry practice, which saw manufacturers design aircraft with little customer input. Within Boeing, the eight airlines that collaborated on the design process were dubbed the “Working Together” group.

The Model 777, the first entirely new Boeing airplane in more than a decade, was the first jetliner to be 100% digitally designed using 3D computer graphics. Throughout the design process, the airplane was “preassembled” on the computer, eliminating the need for a full-scale mock-up.

By March 1990, Boeing and the airlines had settled on a basic design configuration that included a cabin cross-section similar to that of the 747, a capacity of up to 325 people, flexible interiors, a glass cockpit, fly-by-wire controls, and 10% lower seat-mile costs than the A330 and MD-11. The 777’s final assembly would take place in Boeing’s Everett factory in Washington, which also produces the 747.

With the 777 design, Boeing incorporated a variety of sophisticated technology, including fully digital fly-by-wire controls, fully software-configurable avionics, Honeywell LCD glass cockpit flight displays, and the first commercial aircraft to employ a fiber optic avionics network.

The 777’s wings have a supercritical airfoil design that is 31.6 degrees swept back and suited for cruising at Mach 0.83. (revised after flight tests up to Mach 0.84). The wings are thicker and have a larger span than prior airliners, allowing for more payload and range, better takeoff performance, and a higher cruising altitude. The wings also serve as fuel storage, with longer-range models able to carry up to 47,890 US gallons (181,300 L) of fuel.

The original 777 interior, also known as the Boeing Signature Interior, features curved panels, larger overhead bins, and indirect lighting.

Production of the Triple Seven

Boeing 777 Production

The production process includes a significant amount of international content, setting a new record for global subcontracting for a Boeing airliner, which was eventually surpassed by the 787. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (fuselage panels), Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (central wing section), Hawker de Havilland (elevators), and Aerospace Technologies of Australia (elevators) were among the international contributors (rudder).

Boeing and the Japan Aircraft Development Corporation, which represents Japanese aerospace contractors, reached a deal that made the latter risk-sharing partners for 20% of the total development program.

Boeing increased the capacity of its Everett facility at a cost of approximately US$1.5bn to make room for two new assembly lines to accommodate the manufacturing of its next airplane. Workers devised new production processes, such as a turning mechanism that could rotate fuselage subassemblies 180 degrees, allowing workers access to higher body sections.

On January 4, 1993, the principal assembly of the first aircraft commenced. By the time manufacturing began, the program had received 118 firm orders from ten airlines, with options for 95 more. Boeing’s total investment in the program is projected to be over US$4bn, with another US$2bn coming from suppliers.

The 777-300ER is the most popular and successful model of the type. Photo: Boeing

Launch of the Triple Seven

The first 777, WA001, was unveiled on April 9, 1994, in a series of 15 ceremonies held throughout the day to accommodate the 100,000 visitors who had been invited. On June 12, 1994, the Triple Seven performed its maiden flight.

United Airlines had become the 777’s launch customer on October 14, 1990, after placing an order for 34 Pratt & Whitney-powered planes worth US$11bn, with options for another 34. On May 15, 1995, Boeing delivered the first 777 to the airline.

On May 30, 1995, the FAA granted the Pratt & Whitney PW4084-engined aircraft 180-minute ETOPS certification (“ETOPS-180”), making it the first airliner to have an ETOPS-180 rating when it entered service.

The first commercial flight from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Dulles International Airport (IAD) near Washington, D.C. took place on June 7, 1995. In October 1996, a 207-minute ETOPS clearance was approved.

Chart: Boeing 777 Orders and Deliveries (Cumulative by Year until April 2022), via Wikipedia

Boeing 777 Orders and Deliveries

As of today, the Triple Seven has received more orders and deliveries than any other wide-body airliner; prior to the pandemic, over 60 customers had placed orders for 2,049 aircraft in all variants, with 1,609 having been delivered. The 777-300ER is the most popular and successful model of the type, with 838 aircraft ordered and 832 delivered.

By March 2018, the Boeing 777 had surpassed the Boeing 747 as the most produced wide-body airplane by the company.

Emirates (EK) operates the largest Triple Seven fleet, with 148 aircraft, while FedEx Express (FX) operates the largest fleet of Boeing 777F cargo aircraft. As of April 2022, 2,108 Boeing 777s, of all variants, have been ordered, and 1,683 have been delivered.

Featured image: The Boeing 777 on its maiden flight on June 12, 1994. Photo: Boeing Dreamscape – K58552, CC BY 2.0. Article sources: Boeing


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Article source: https://airwaysmag.com/first-flight-boeing-777/

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