This is very bad news for Boeing, and for airlines, and for consumers who have been looking forward to the new cabins some airlines were going to introduce on the 777X.
Basics of the Boeing 777X
For those of you not familiar, the Boeing 777X is Boeing’s newest version of the 777. It will come in two variants — the 777-8 and 777-9 — and the planes are both longer range and larger than existing 777s (and larger than 787s, which are also popular).
With there clearly not being a market anymore for planes like the A380 and 747-8 (even pre-pandemic), this will likely be the biggest new aircraft we see manufactured in the next decade. The plane is already a few years late — deliveries were originally supposed to start in 2020, but have already been delayed until 2023 at the earliest. Now the situation has become even worse.
Boeing 777X has “serious flight test incident”
Dominic Gates at The Seattle Times reports on major new concerns with the Boeing 777X, which are now realistically pushing certification of the plane out to late 2023, meaning deliveries will now start in 2024 at the earliest.
On May 13, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sent a letter to Boeing stating that the number of test flights planned for the 777X may have to increase, as the plane is realistically more than two years from being certified.
The FAA cited a long list of concerns, the most significant of which involved a December 8, 2020, test flight. During this, the plane experienced an “uncommanded pitch event,” meaning the nose of the aircraft pitched upward or downward without input from the pilots.
The FAA is under increased scrutiny following the 737 MAX fiasco, where the organization was accused of being too cozy with Boeing. You can bet that the FAA will be much more diligent this time around, especially when the plane apparently had a “pitch event” during a test flight, which sounds mighty similar to what happened to the 737 MAX.
The letter states that “the technical data required for type certification has not reached a point where it appears the aircraft type design is mature and can be expected to meet the applicable regulations.”
An unnamed FAA source is also quoted, who states that “there’s a general feeling that Boeing has kind of lost a step,” referring to Boeing’s reputation for excellence in the past, and that “the days of Boeing being able to say to the FAA ‘just trust us’ are long gone.”
This doesn’t sound good…
Specific to the 777X, it sounds like we now shouldn’t expect the first delivery of this plane until 2024, and that’s best case scenario. That’s pretty terrible when you consider that in 2019 the plan was for the first plane to be delivered in 2020. Suffering a four year delay in a bit over a year is… not great.
I’d expect the FAA to be extra diligent with the 777X following the 737 MAX issues, especially with an alleged pitch incident on a test flight late last year.
It really is unfortunate how Boeing’s reputation has deteriorated in the past few years. It’s not just the 737 MAX issue as such, but everything about the company’s corporate culture that came out following that. Now there are 777X issues.
And that doesn’t even account for Boeing’s product lineup hardly being competitive anymore. Airbus is on track to have the A321XLR flying by 2023, and Boeing doesn’t even have a competitor to that.
While the 777X delays are on the surface bad for airlines, I wonder if these continued delays might give some airlines an easy way to cancel their orders, given how the industry has changed. Boeing has already seen a significant number of 777X order cancelations and deferrals.
The Boeing 777X is allegedly having several problems with its certification, not the least of which is a pitch incident that occurred on a test flight in late 2020. We should expect it to be well over two years before the plane is certified, and that means that at this point the plane won’t enter service before early 2024 at the earliest.
What do you make of these latest Boeing 777X issues?