Boeing 777X RFP considerations

We obtained a copy of Boeing’s Request for Proposal documents. Much of the information contained therein has already been reported. You may link to these news articles here.

As with previous inquiries, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder declined to authenticate the RFP documents or to comment on the contents.

Boeing plans to announce its site selection decision soon into the new year.

We look at some key production and entry-into-service (EIS) issues today.

Site Selection

Boeing outlined three scenarios for site selection:

Scenario 1:

Wing Fabrication & Assembly, Body Assembly, Final Assembly & Delivery

Start of facility construction no later than November 2014

Production start July 2016

Scenario 2A:

Wing Fabrication & Assembly

Start of facility construction no later than November 2014

Production start July 2016

Scenario 2B:

Body Assembly, Final Assembly & Delivery

Start of facility construction no later than June 2015

Production start January 2018


EIS is promised for 2020. Boeing hasn’t been specific about when within 2020 this is planned, but Market Intelligence initially had EIS pegged for December 2019, based on previous Boeing representations to potential customers. For our purposes, we’ll assume EIS in mid-2020.

Design Timeline

Wind tunnel testing began December 5 in Farnborough, England.

Based on the proposed EIS of 2020 and the historical design-to-EIS timelines, we estimate roll-out of the first test airplane and flight tests will be in 2018.

                       Boeing 777X Timeline


Offer, first orders

Wind Tunnel Testing begins


Site selection; facility construction begins Nov or…(see 2015)

 ‘Top Level’ Design


Facility construction begins June

Firm configuration


Production begins in July; or…(see 2018)






Production begins in January

Roll out, flight tests begin






777-9X EIS






777-8X EIS

Sources: Boeing 777X RFP; Leeham Co. Estimates


According to the RFP, production is to begin in July 2016 or January 2018, depending on the site selection scenario chosen. The RFP raises an interesting question:

  • If production begins in July 2016, this represents a four year timeline to the 2020 EIS.
  • If production begins in January 2018, this represents a 2 ½ year timeline to EIS.

“Production” is undefined in the RFP but typically this means components, not just final assembly. Given a 2020 EIS, it seems that Scenarios 1 and 2A are more likely than Scenario 2B. But it all depends on how “production” is ultimately defined by Boeing.

According to the RFP, the facilities need to have a production capacity of 10.4 aircraft a month. The 777 Classic is currently being produced at a rate of 8.3/mo, although Boeing is known to have studied a rate of at least 9/mo.

Market Launch

Boeing officially launched the program at the Dubai Air Show with 225 orders from Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines and Qatar Airways. Lufthansa Airlines placed the first order prior to the show. Program orders now stand at 295. Forty-three of these were for the ultra-long range 777-8X, which can fly 9,400nm. We previously discussed the market potential for the ULR, which historically has been highly limited.

The 777-9 is, of course, in a class by itself at 406 seats. It’s larger than the current 777-300ER (365 seats), the Airbus A350-1000 (350-369 seats) and smaller than the Boeing 747-8 (advertised 467 seats) and Airbus A380 (525 seats). The question is whether Airbus will respond to the 777-9 or leave Boeing to this market segment.

We believe Airbus should proceed with a stretch of the -1000, commonly dubbed the -1100, that would be a straight-forward stretch using the same engines and wing. This would reduce the range of the -1000 by an estimate 1,200-1,500nm but the resulting 6,500-7,000nm range would cover 90% of the routes operated by airlines. This is the approach Boeing took with the 787-10. Furthermore, the Middle Eastern airlines have spoken with their orders for the 777X.

Is there enough market left for two airplanes in the 400 seat sector? Airbus, according to our Market Intelligence, doesn’t appear to think so. Current thinking appears to be that Boeing can have this narrow niche and Airbus will continue to pursue the narrow niche of the Very Large Aircraft (into which the 777-9 technically and barely falls) with the A380. Airbus believes the future of the 747-8I is dim and we agree. Thus, the large twin and VLA market appears to be shaping up like this:

















* Likely discontinued ~2020



Leeham Co. Chart




Airbus has had trouble throughout its existence with its wide-body strategy. The A300, its first airplane and the first twin-engine, twin-aisle airplane, was a mediocre design and performer. The A330/340 line was originally a medium range pair that didn’t truly find favor until the A330 range was increased in recent years to more than 5,000-6,000nm. The A340 sold fewer than 400 and was easily eclipsed by the 777, particularly the 777-300ER.

57 Comments on “Boeing 777X RFP considerations

  1. “The A340 sold fewer than 400 and was …”
    Black Vans at your front door ;-?

    “The A300, its first airplane and the first twin-engine, twin-aisle airplane, was a mediocre design and performer.”

    For its time it could not have been too bad, right?

    With the basic A340/A330 Combo produced with mostly the same parts on the same production line Airbus had a product for whichever way the wind turned.
    With automatic “upranging” at that.

  2. Describing the A300 as mediocre misses the point, I feel. It was designed as a short haul plane at a time when the long haul market was dominated by 3 & 4 engined planes, but was perhaps a bit too big for the majority of short haul routes although it sold well in europe and for some time ousted narrow bodies on many trunk routes. Nevertheless it provided the basis of the A330 which I don’t think anyone would argue has not been a success. As traffic volumes continue to grow I’d have thought there could well be a revival in short-haul widebodies, as there’s a limit to how much frequencies can be increased.

    • The A300B2/B4 (the latter operated by Eastern and Continental in the US) were underpowered, especially for an airport like Denver. This contributed to the mediocrity.

    • Yes the A300/10 can be seen as a mediore succes. It competed with the 707, 727, DC10 and the like. First big twin, pioneered long overwater operations, FBW, duo cockpit and launched Airbus but only sold about 800. The fuselage cross section is rolling of the line at 10 a month as we speak.

  3. Funnily enough, the A350-1100 could be ideal for Emirates MEEA routes, which is where the bulk of its 777s are deployed right now. The 777-9X is too much plane for regional routes I would have thought. But I don’t know if the large number of 777X orders will mean fewer or no A350-1100 orders.

    I agree with the other comments about the A300. It was in the end a successful plane: 561 sold versus 386 DC-10s and 250 TriStars

    • Seat counts are a dark art. I think the quoted 365 seats on the 777-300ER assumes nine across seats in economy while the 407 seats on the 777-9x assumes ten across. If we assume this American Airlines layout will be typical for this kind of plane going forwards we would have 308 seats on the 777-300ER with perhaps the same number of seats in an equivalent A350-1000 layout (lose a seat per row in economy but gain a couple of rows due to one fewer exits) and perhaps 24 more seats on an equivalent 777-9X. In other words, there is not a huge difference between the seat counts in these equivalent layouts.

  4. The table shown above according to seats is for a time about 2020 and not for today.
    The point is that EIS for A350-800 is expected at the end of 2016 and EIS for A350-1000 at the end of 2017. So where is the problem for Airbus to offer an A350-1100 at the end of 2018? Two years ahead of the 777-9?

    According to the chart here:
    A question arise:
    Will Airbus really do nothing after 2017?

  5. I believe the 2b scenario refers to just the body assembly and final assembly of the aircraft and not the wings. Hence this can start later (January 2018). It’s not that it is unlikely but rather that Boeing is open to the option of two separate facilities for wing and FAL respectively and these have separate timelines.

    Regardless a January 2018 start for a 2020 EIS apparently has some buffer time built in.

  6. lets see now – BA sends $900/person to about a dozen statge legislators ( WA ) just before a vote worth 9 Billion in tax breaks . . . thats about $8400. Pretty good ratio. Now I wonder if I send all the federal and state legislators say 10 cents each, could I get them to give me a 10 year state and federal tax holiday ?

    Off topic but worth a few grins re phonetics :-PP

    Jetstar puts 787 Dreamliner on Bali, Phuket runs

    December 18, 2013
    Read more:

  7. For airlines like EK, AF and AA, the 777-9i is a two row stretch. For airlines that feel 10 abreast is not ok on a 777 above 10 hours, or feel they need a M+ class with it, too.

    IMO The 406 seats is not more then marketing to make CASM look better and make the capacity gap with the A350-1000 look larger then it really is. Similar to the 469 seat 747-8i.

    • The preparatory work by way of having the “mini jumbo” meme introduced from the press sidelines started about a year ago. 😉

    • Many carriers are going with the 10 across in Y. Many are also adding a “Y+” with 9-across.

      With the number of carriers purchasing the B77X, ostensibly it seems it will be a successful plane.

      • I am afraid we have a trend here, I wonder if in 10 years time most 777Xs will be 10 wide? And if so how many A350-1000/1100s will be 10 wide as well. Ouch!

      • 9-abreast is pretty feeble for a “Y+”, it’s the same as today’s Y (as opposed to the 10-abreast “Y-“). At least AC’s Premium Economy is 8-abreast on the 777.

    • Many 777s were delivered during the last two yrs to EK, AA. 10 abreast. Hurray, a trend ignoring most 777s are 9 abreast. IMO there is a strong coordinated campaign going initiated by Boeing to look everybody straight in the eyes and loudly say 10 abreast on a 777 is acceptable and smart, the future & a free choice. And repeat it 10 times, crusial. Imagine 9 abreast 787 and 10 abreast 777 would be unacceptable.. simply not an option. In this case it’s convenient to sidestep the passengers and hide behind the airlines & the free choice to upgrade or stay home. Check out trip reports for EK economy class, 10 abreast 777 and A380.. telling.

      • Keesje,

        have a look at the trend over the last few years re increasing % of 10-ABR 777s. This year nearly 70% of all 777s delivered are 1–ABR and this will likely only go up.

  8. I was reading about the 777x when I noticed that a lot of the cabin width necessary to better accommodate 10-abreast seating had been gained at the expense of ridding the cabin of sound insulation – a lot of insulation. As a result, it appears that the 777x cabin appears will be quite LOUD! As a result, I can’t imagine how this will equate to a pleasant flying experience. Perhaps the enhanced LED mood lighting will assuage the passenger as he/she loses their hearing? Free earplugs for passengers? Or…perhaps Boeing could somehow sell this “Loudness” as a “feature” – like some tried to do when it was claimed that the Airbus A380 Cabin was just too damned quiet?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    • Free noise suppression earphone everyone?

      I think Boeing was talking about thinner and better insulation was going to be used on the 777X. Perhaps the noise will be about the same as what it is the for the 777 now. Remember also, the GNex engines will be considerably quieter than the GE115B ones though.

      • Those that pound the sky’s in small & large twins & the now rarer quads would agree that the one aspect Boeing needs to seriously address is suppression on cabin noise to the levels achieved by its prime competitor.

      • I was on flight from NY to LA on a B767 and decided to pick one of the center aisle seat due to the fact that is quieter there. About 40 minutes into the flight, someone a couple of rows behind me started snoring, a sound so horribly bad that I though I was going to throw up (seriously). How I wished I had noise cancelling headphone right there. I still don’t know how in the world the passenger next to this person could stand that noise and did not do something to stop that sound. How I wished also that I was seated right by the windows where the sound rushing pass the skin of the aircraft makes a humming noise enough to muffle other not so nice noise. So, what I’m trying to say is that perhaps a little airplane noise in the cabin could actually be a good thing.

    • “Enquiring minds want to know.”

      Really, do you? It seems to me that you already know that the 777X will be quite loud, even though it has not even been designed yet, let alone built and tested.

      • Thinner, different insulation is what is planned. I don’t think anyone can realistically predict noise lwvels yet, but what happens if they turn out to be too high?

      • Acoustics is a tricky business. Normal damping works either with massive walls or absorption. Due to the fact that concrete is not an optimal material for building a aircraft fuselage absorption is the way to go – mineral wool or polyimide foam. Making such layer thiner won’t enhance the acoustics.

        Just a power point presentation showing “enhanced foams” won’t solve much.

      • Acoustics is indeed a tricky business, which is why making pronouncements now about how the 777X will turn out is nonsense, and is actually worse than just a power point presentation showing “enhanced foams”.

        The effectiveness of any noise control system is dependent on more than just one parameter, such as the thickness of the absorption material. While greater available thickness might make the engineer’s job easier, a smaller available thickness does not make the engineer’s job impossible. There are many games that can be played with just the absorption material alone, depending on what weight and cost penalties are considered acceptable. It is possible that new materials can be used.

        In my opinion, this whole extrapolated issue of interior noise on the 777X is simply just one in an entire series of PR attacks and counterattacks between the two manufacturers.

    • Actually, there are a lot of misconceptions hanging around about the “internal stretching” of the 777X cabin. What Boeing is doing — and as Airbus planned to do on the original A330-derived A350 — is to reduce the depth of the fuselage frames in the area around the windows where the internal diameter is at its widest. Most of the insulation is mounted in between the fuselage frames and the sidewall linings, not between the frames and the sidewall linings, which BTW is illustrated quite nicely in the following link:

      In construction, thinner frames on an aircraft or thinner wood joists in your house (i.e. 2.5″ x 3″ instead of 2″ x4″), means thinner overall wall thickness. Simple as that. Of course, to maintain overall strength, when you reduce the depth of a fuselage frame, you’ve got to compensate by increasing the thickness of the frame instead. It seems to me that composite construction is far better suited in manufacturing fuselage frames incorporating thickness variations. Interestingly enough, on the 777X, traditional aluminium will be used instead. Yet another design compromise?

  9. Keep saying BA SQ CX JAL UA will not use10 abrest Kessje. You do know that 77W is 11 inches and 77X is 15 inches wider than A350XWB.

    • Yes but 9 abreast 18 inch seats. Boeing & friends will do anything to convince the industry 17 inch for long flights is perfectly ok.

      • As I´ve posted before, when I have flown on 777s 10 wide very few pax were traveling on tickets they bought themselves, their employers did. Most of those same employers would have no hesitation in putting them on a 10W A350, or an 11W one if it was available!! Same office staff who buy the tickets wouldn´t buy a ticket on a 10W B777 for themselves however. This is where I think Boeing are making a mistake. 17 inch is the point at which it no longer matters how wide the seat is because so many pax have no choice and will just end up on the cheapest, not to mention lowest margin for operator, seats.

  10. The aircraft of the future are nimble point to point aircraft, twin aisles of six, seven, and eight abreast. The 777x is a lumbering leviathan.

  11. Any ideas as to the size of the accounting block/break even and the total market in units for 777x?

    The first would seem to be site dependent (Everett the cheapest) and the market not all that huge.

  12. The X is perhaps just a place holder (for up to 10 years), but does anyone really expect any future all-new Boeing aircraft to be built in WA?

    It seems like everyone around NW Washington from the city council to the media to the union of course is vehemently opposed to anything Boeing requests/does.

  13. Yeah, we are so opposed we just handed them the largest package of state supplied tax breaks and incentives in the history of the United States of America.

    Now they want a shoe shine as well. If they get it, the next demand by Boeing may involve [edited].

  14. Look, the rhetoric is getting a little out of hand Scott. Boeing is responsible for building aircraft in a way to maxmize its profit. In order to do so, they have to have a reasonably satisfied happy work force. The IAM is responsible for protecting and representing its members.
    The current business environment is against labor right now. It may change in the future. The pension of the past is not going to be present in the future, because the accounting/business laws require such a high level of financial burden for the companies.

    What if oeing offered something like progit sharing to decrease the risk angst and the union agreed to new hires going 401k?

  15. As for the 777x 10 across versus 9 across debate. It seems to me the market is speaking. The 777x has more orders now than the 350-1000 has garnered in 7 years, in spite of earlier availability. Is there a place for the 350-1000, sure. Boeing is constrained by its production capability and the -1000 is going to be a good plane for its size. But it looks like the 777x is going to cut the quads off at the pass. Less cost, equivalent CASM, more flexibility versus the 380 and ( and the 747 too).

    • Comparing 777x commitment for EIS after 2020 to A350 firm orders for delivery in a year is perfectly ok. Just not a representation of what will happen this decade. Sit back and watch.

    • And what’s the bet these will be operated at 10-ABR Y? Almost certain IMO. Keesje needs to get it into his head that many other factors other than seat width come into the passenger comfort equation. Does he not think it reasonable for Air Asia X to operate 10-ABR 350s and 9-ABR 333s?

  16. I believe the -1000 is to deliver in 2018 or so? A could change the order of course since the -800 does not appear competitive. You may be right about 10 abreast damaging the EK brand. But economy is sold on price. If the 777x damages the Business or first class reputation, than that’s a different story.
    Again, there is a slot for the -1000, but it appears that the 777-9x is going to cut into that market share significantly. Otherwise, why is the 9x selling so well?

  17. As all Options, option LOI and purchasing rights for the 777x are counted as orders these days can we do the same for the A350 and A380?

    • Can you actually provide some examples of Options/Option LOIs and rights being counted as actual orders? Purchase LOIs are counted, as they usually are. The Cathay Pacific order is very real, and has been released on their own website. I don’t know what other “Options/rights” are being passed as real orders?

      On a side note, with 21 orders at CX, I doubt they’ll be looking for A380s anytime soon. Maybe when it gets stretched next decade?

      • Looks like 25 orders for Etihad, 20 for LH, for a total of 45 on the 777x spreadsheet.

      • This 250+ claimed is inline with 225 + 34 orders formally announced by LH and at Dubai. None of these was announced as an “option” “option LOI” or “purchasing rights”. Yes, they have not been firmed yet, but as we’ve already discussed, its not uncommon for this to happen. The 250+ number is staggering, so you see it bandied more than usual, but according to the press the Emirates number for the A380 is now 140 too. Its somewhat of a stretch to claim that they are being intellectually dishonest about their numbers. I’m sure Airbus didn’t go around not discussing the 50 A380 orders that it received in its first year of sales, just because they were not firmed up.

        As much as we disagree, enjoy your holidays, I mean it sincerely. The A350 is coming around nicely and the A380 has another 50 orders. Boeing has yet to finalize a 777x location, and putting it anywhere but Everett probably means labor action once this contract is up, not to mention may cause some real order drops. 280 “orders” so far for the 777x just means that in the end, it has further to fall. You can rest assured there will be a backlash if, come production time, the actual firm order numbers really end up not near the 250+ number being thrown out, and I’m sure there will be many here to remind us of the fact. 😉

      • You have to differentiate between preliminary expressions of intent like forex an LOI and finalised expressions of intent : item sale, option, purchase right. ( as they appear in Boeings searchable order accounting )

        The weight by numbers of finalised results has moved to options and purchase rights while the press taking up forex Boeing press releases still reports these as umqualified sales ( at least in secondary and tertiary reporting, FlightGlobal seems to still report with a bit of care )
        As a prediction of future manufacturing activity hard sales tend to be hard sales
        while options often fall by the wayside. Nothing to say about purchase rights which appear to be a rather new invention to muddy the waters.

      • Right, I do admit you may be correct that some of these will end up as “options” but as I said, its really a stretch to push this as some sort of intellectual dishonesty, ESPECIALLY since the airlines themselves have all announced the same numbers as orders. If you look at Emirate’s announcement in particular, it makes the distinction between rights and orders, and the Lufthansa announcement notes 34 board-approved orders. I don’t follow the assumption that the commitments actually mean “options” or “rights” instead of unfirmed orders. If you look back at the order history of new types (even derivatives) I am pretty sure you will see that orders take a while to get firmed up. If this was Airbus with 250+ “orders and commitments” for their new type, I’m sure that their news and announcements would not be substantially different. In the same light no one is going around grousing that the A380 doesn’t have 50 more orders, just because it is not reflected on a spreadsheet.

  18. Sigh…look I’m not a fanboy for either side. THe impression I have is that the field is changing. The current 777 is a monopoly. The 350 seeks to break into this and also serve the 787 market. The 787-9, -10, 777-9x and 77-8x are the response from Boeing. I would put forth that as airlines seek to maximise their profit margins in an era of razor thin margins they will attempt to purchase jets that best fit their needs. The 350 will get some, the 787 and 777x will get some. The market will speak. Right now, it looks like the Max, NEO, 787, 350-900, 7779x are going to sell well. The jury is out on the 1000, a380. The 7478i is dead. The 7478f will potter along. THe 777 and 330 will slowly decline.

    • If the jury is still out on the A350-1000, EK, QR, JAL, BA, UA and CX are not in the jury. SQ, AF and LH won’t join the jury.

      I think of the 1100 A350 commitments sofar, about 40-50% will leave the FAL as A350-1000.

      Jury still out on the A380, while the 777x success after 2020 is a given. Great material. Lets see how the big twin arena looks in 5 years, nearly 2 years before the 777x comes into service. Yet unsold 777ERs rolling off the line.

  19. I forgot the 777-8x will be a niche. The 767 will decline but still sell in another reincarnation (tanker).

    In any event, the competition for the 350-400 plus market is where the competition will be fiercest

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