In late October 2017, workers at the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington began manufacturing what will be the largest carbon fiber composite wing in aviation history.
Bright lights from TV cameras glinted off the 108-foot long wing spar as a robotic drilling machine performed its programmed maneuvers and drilled the first hole in a 777X part. 777X should have 12 percent lower fuel consumption and 10 percent lower operating costs than the competition. After fabrication in the nearby Composite Wing Center, the front and rear spars had their first voyage to a new facility – the 40-02 building housing 777X wing assembly. About 500 mechanics, engineers, and employees, as well as members of the media and customer representatives, joined an online audience to witness the production of the first 777X wing spar. Older generation 777 airframes consisted of only 12 percent composites, but the newer 777X will use 30 percent or possibly higher amounts of carbon fiber composites.
The 777X will have a wingspan of 71.8 meters (235.6 feet) and two 3.47 meter (11.4 foot) wingtips will fold to reduce the wingspan to 64.8 meters (212.75 feet). The super long, high strength-to-weight ratio carbon fiber wings will maximize aerodynamic lift and fuel efficiency. The folding wingtips keep the Boeing 777X within the ICAO aerodrome code E class on the runway like the current 777S When the wingtips are extended, the Boeing 777X will maintain Code E standards on the ramp and taxiway in line with today's 777-300ER. When the 777X wings are complete, Airbus will lose claim to manufacturing the largest carbon fiber composite components in civil aviation. The Airbus A350-1000 has a wingspan of only 64.75 meters (212.4 feet).
The 777X combines the best technology from the 777 with newer technology developed for the 787 Dreamliners. The 777X cabin interior will adopt the sought after comforts and conveniences of the 787 Dreamliner such as larger windows, a wider cabin, new lighting and enhanced architecture.
“The 777X wing is a composite, so it is much lighter and maintains good strength characteristics,” said Mary Manning, 777X design engineer. “This allows the airplane to be lighter, which results in greater performance and fuel efficiency. This will be better for our airline customers.”
In anticipation of the 777X, the 40-02 building has been completely refurbished, with new tooling for the wing spars installed, tested and qualified. The first flying airplane is scheduled to roll out next year with test and certification in 2019 and first delivery in 2020. KUKA Aerospace, a division of the largest robotics companies in the world opened a facility near Boeing and will provide the automated system that will build the fuselage of the 777X.
A staggering number of 777X's have been ordered – 326 aircraft, worth over $100 billion USD according to Boeing.
Everyone will be waiting with excited anticipation to see the first 777X test flight in 2019.