Boeing has put development of the ultra-long-range 777-8 on hold, just weeks after announcing a delay in the first flight of the larger -9 variant.
The move to “adjust” the schedule of the ultra long-range variant of the 777X programme is to “[reduce] risk in our development programme, ensuring a more seamless transition to the 777-8”, says Boeing.
It comes after a review of the twinjet’s development programme schedule and of 777X customer needs.
The airframer gave no indication of how long the development will be put on hold for, and did not elaborate further when asked by FlightGlobal.
“We remain committed to the 777-8, which will be the most flexible commercial jet in the world and offer our customers optimal range and payload,” Boeing adds.
The 777-8 is the smaller, longer-range follow-on to the 777-9, which is designed to carry 384 passengers in a two-class configuration and fly up to 16,170km.
Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer indicates that there are 53 orders for the 777-8 from Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways.
The twinjet has been touted by the airframer as “the right platform” for Australian carrier Qantas's "Project Sunrise" requirement, under which it is planning to launch nonstop flights from Australia’s east coast to Europe and the US east coast.
Boeing says it will continue to work with current and potential 777X customers. “This includes our valued customer Qantas,” it adds.
The delay to the 777-8, first reported by industry publication The Air Current, comes weeks after the airframer pushed back the 777-9's first flight because of an issue with the General Electric GE9X engines that power both 777X variants.
Boeing previously said the first flight of its newest widebody would occur in this year, but that has now moved it into 2020. For now, it is sticking to its goal to complete certification and begin deliveries next year – but it has warned that timeline could slip.