To me this is probably the most interesting new aircraft delivery in quite a while, though I’m not sure others will share my enthusiasm.
The world’s last Boeing 777-200LR gets delivered
Turkmenistan’s flag carrier, Turkmenistan Airlines, has just taken delivery of the world’s last passenger Boeing 777-200LR to roll off the Everett production line. While it’s my understanding that the 777-200LR program hasn’t formally ended, there are no more of these passenger planes on order, as future 777 orders are primarily for the new 777X, which is now delayed until late 2023.
Prior to this delivery, Turkmenistan Airlines’ wide body fleet consisted of three 777-200LRs (one of which is in a VIP government layout), which the airline took delivery of between 2010 and 2014. Then oddly in 2019, the airline decided to order one more 777-200LR, which is the one being delivered now.
Why the 777-200LR is a weird fit for Turkmenistan Airlines
I’ve never really understood Turkmenistan’s decision to use 777-200LRs for long haul flights.
For those of you not familiar with the 777-200LR, it’s the longest range version of the 777, and for that matter the longest range mass produced aircraft in the world (this excludes the Airbus A350-900ULR, which is exclusively operated by Singapore Airlines).
Yet historically the carrier’s longest flights have been around 3,000 miles (flying as far west as Manchester, and as far east as Beijing), which is about a third of the plane’s range.
I’m not sure if the airline somehow got an amazing deal on 777-200LRs (even though 777-200ERs are typically cheaper), at some point had ambitions of nonstop flights between Ashgabat and Fiji, or what, but this has to be one of the strangest fleet decisions of any airline.
Turkmenistan Airlines’ existing 777-200LRs have a total of 291 seats, including 28 business class seats and 263 economy seats. I wonder if the latest 777-200LR has the same interiors as the previous ones. With business class being in a 2-3-2 layout (identical to Turkish Airlines’ 777s), it’s quite an outdated product. Then again, Turkmenistan Airlines doesn’t exactly have much competition in most markets, so I imagine fleet commonality is more important than having a cutting edge product.
The 777-200LR’s journey to Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan Airlines’ newest 777-200LR has the registration code EZ-A780, and it has had quite an exciting routing in the past few days:
- On June 11, the 777-200LR flew from Everett, Washington (PAE) to Lake Charles, Louisiana (CWF); that flight took 3hr42min
- There’s a maintenance and modification center at the airport, which I suspect is the reason the plane flew there first
- On June 14, the 777-200LR flew from Lake Charles, Louisiana (CFW) to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan (KRW); that flight took 15hr42min
- On June 16, the 777-200LR flew from Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan (KRW) to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (ASB); that flight took 53min
I imagine it’s not every day you see a nonstop flight between Lake Charles and Turkmenbashi. 😉
Turkmenistan Airlines took delivery of the last Boeing 777-200LR to come off the production line, which came after the airline placed an order for one additional aircraft in 2019. I’ve never understood Turkmenistan’s fleet decision, given that the airline chose an especially long range aircraft, yet doesn’t operate any true long haul routes.
Turkmenistan Airlines continues to fascinate me, and I hope to fly the airline (and visit Turkmenistan) one day. I’m not sure the flight would end very well for me given the carrier’s no photography policy. Then again, I flew Uzbekistan Airways from New York to Tashkent — the airline had a similar policy, but I lived to tell the tale.
The logical reason I can see for Turkmenistan is the desire to have a direct flight to the United States. The plane would the capacity to fly there and save on refueling costs due to the extra capacity for fuel maybe? It could be completely wrong but it feels as if this was bought with a prestige project in mind.
"I imagine it’s not every day you see a nonstop flight between Lake Charles and Turkmenbashi"
That comment made my day!
It’s so they don’t have to refuel outside Turkmenistan
It's possible Turkmenistan has figured how to optimize efficiently those new alternative fuels such as bio-fuels, and perhaps Boeing wants in on it, otherwise their advisers on both sides would have warned against a LR version when the airline's longest route is a third the distance of the tanks capacity (per the previous comments.)
Yikes! Pierre ;-)
Interesting article on this B777LR; thank you. Once this pandemic fades, it will be fun to read your review of Turkmenistan Airlines (are they a dry airline?) > as well as > Ashgabat International Airport!
The smaller the country the loftier the pride... probably a vanity thing.
I think it probably has to do more with the cult of personality going on involving their president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov - Turkmenistan, as policy goes, is closer to North Korea than it is to any of the other -stans.
Seems like it's 100% the case with Turkmenistan. They live (under the orders of their autocratic government) it seems just to show off their country and break records. They seem to be a proud small nation (though there is nothing necessarily to be proud about) and will take every opportunity to prove that they're the best or won't stop until they improve. Through their capital city (just a white marble show city), airport, flag parades...
Seems like it's 100% the case with Turkmenistan. They live (under the orders of their autocratic government) it seems just to show off their country and break records. They seem to be a proud small nation (though there is nothing necessarily to be proud about) and will take every opportunity to prove that they're the best or won't stop until they improve. Through their capital city (just a white marble show city), airport, flag parades and in this case their airline as well, they just want everyone to see what they have. Thankfully, probably to President Gurbanguly's disappointment, most people know the truth and see that it's just a weird dictator's playground with in reality very little to show.
While the "range" of the more expensive LR goes unused, the extra fuel tank capacity definitely does not! Turkmenistan is a leading producer of refined jet fuel, which is sold at extraordinarily favorable rates to their flag carrier (and somewhat less favorable rates to other airlines and neighboring nations). The longer range option allows them to exclusively refuel at their hub for both an outbound and return flight.
This was the last B777LR “passenger” to be built, but don’t forget the “Cargo” variant the B777F which based on the exact same aircraft. They are being built still and are wildly successful with FedEx being its biggest customer and over 50 types by the end of 2021!
Not to mention the fact that if the 777-9 ends up scrapped. production of the older passenger versions will have to resume... This or letting Airbus become the ONLY major airframe manufacturer... which probably won't happen.
It makes me happy to see new 777s. I much prefer the big wide bodies long haul with straight walls like the 777 and 747 were. A380 too, but most Airbus walls as on a330/a350 curve too much inwards if you get a window seat. Plus 777 you get you own blind so far better than 787 if not in business in my opinion.
A quick note is that this isn't identical to Turkish Airlines B777 business class, but rather TK's old B777 business class. TK updated the interiors (starting way back in 2016-2017, I believe) to feature a (some might say slightly) better version of this seat. I actually think that these seats are very comfortable and spacious - vastly better than TK's latest staggered seats. Also, as a side note, I think that Turkmenistan Airlines' B777 business...
A quick note is that this isn't identical to Turkish Airlines B777 business class, but rather TK's old B777 business class. TK updated the interiors (starting way back in 2016-2017, I believe) to feature a (some might say slightly) better version of this seat. I actually think that these seats are very comfortable and spacious - vastly better than TK's latest staggered seats. Also, as a side note, I think that Turkmenistan Airlines' B777 business class feature the "stars" in the ceiling, just as e.g. EVA Air).
almost certainly some brown envelopes involved.........