By Scott Hamilton
June 18, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing and GE Aerospace agreed to send a 777-9 to Dubai next year for about two months of route proving for its largest 777X customer, Emirates Airline.
LNA confirmed the plan on the sidelines of a Boeing event today in conjunction with the Paris Air Show that officially begins tomorrow.
The airline’s president, Tim Clark, has developed a deep skepticism over the pace of the program, which has been hit by repeated delays for a variety of technical and regulatory reasons. The program was launched in 2013, with Lufthansa Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways as launch customers. Emirates was supposed to receive the first airplane as early as December 2019. Now, Boeing forecasts the first delivery in 2025. Clark is said to be concerned that the delivery will slip to 2026.
Emirates has 115 777Xs on order.
Technical issues with the giant GE9X engine early in the flight testing forced a delay while engines were returned to GE for analysis, fixes and repairs. Then certification work on the program got caught up in the certification crisis of the 737 MAX program following two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019. Global regulators grounded the entire MAX fleet for what became 21 months.
During the investigation into the MAX crashes, the certification of the MAX came under Congressional and investigative scrutiny. Conclusions were reached in various probes that Boeing overstepped its development and certification process, in some cases misleading the FAA. The FAA stepped up its oversight of Boeing and recertification of the MAX.
With flight testing of the 777X underway concurrently with the recertification of the MAX, the FAA demanded a complete review of work already done on the 777X, further delaying certification.
Another round of engine issues arose during the continuation of flight testing, also requiring engine removal while the new issues were resolved. Flight testing resumed a few months ago.
Clark, of Emirates, has been increasingly vocal about the delays and technical issues. He canceled orders for 35 777Xs and threatened to cancel more at various times during the delays. Clark’s complaints center on delays, skepticism over the engine’s ability to meet performance specifications in the harsh Middle East environment and total performance of the 777X. He’s gone public with his complaints on many occasions and, publicly, demanded assurance that the engines will be “mature” by entry into service.
The decision to send a 777-9 to the Middle East for two months next summer is intended to assuage his concerns, LNA is told.
Stan Deal, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, confirmed the planned route proving. He added that Boeing had done the same with the 787 for launch customer All Nippon Airways. The 787 was also subject to years of delays, design, industrial and production issues.
The 777X, officially an experimental airplane, will be crewed by Boeing pilots.