Boeing in late September began assembling the first test example of a composite wing for its in-development 777X widebody twin, two years ahead of the aircraft's flight debut.
The milestone involved the wing's top section being lowered into a jig at the Everett plant in Washington, where it will undergo robotic drilling.
Combined with GE Aviation GE9X engines, the 777X's new wing will play a key part in delivering enhanced fuel efficiency. Its wingspan has been increased by 7m (23ft) over the current 777-300ER model, to 71.8m, with a new wing-fold mechanism – of 3.5m on each side – to enable the twinjet to use the same airport infrastructure and taxiways as its predecessor.
Flight testing of the 777X is set to commence in 2019. Boeing expects to deliver the first 777-9 during 2020, with the longer-range -8 model to follow one year later.
"We see a good order backlog – much better than the -300ER had at this time, ahead of production," Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Kevin McAllister told FlightGlobal at Everett on 26 September. "I think you'll see a very compelling value proposition on that airplane as we go forward."
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Boeing has secured firm orders for 316 of the aircraft – 263 -9s and 53 -8s – since launching the 777X programme at the Dubai air show in November 2013. Customers include All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways.