Last week, Boeing celebrated the official kickoff of production of its 777X wide-body jet. The 777X aircraft is a large-sized twin-engine passenger aircraft currently being developed by Boeing as a successor to the existing 777, with plans for its first flight in 2019 and delivery of the first plane in 2020. Boeing’s two 777X variants, the 777-8 and 777-9, are designed to carry between 350 and 425 passengers. The new jets are expected to be 20 percent more fuel-efficient.
The ceremony brought hundreds of Boeing workers to the company’s widebody-jet manufacturing facility in Everett, Wash., where the support structures for the 777X’s CFRP composite wings are being assembled. The highlight of the ceremony was when a laser-guided robotic arm drilled a hole into the carbon fiber layer for a 105-foot-long wing spar and its stiffener and installed the first fastener. Meanwhile, in the new wing-fabrication center, an automated fiber-placement machine designed and built by Multikeo, Wash.-based Electroimpact moved along a spar mold by putting down plies of half-inch-wide carbon fiber tape to begin making a spar for the left wing of the test aircraft.
“The new 777X is going to launch into a technological era and a performance era that are not used to,” said Jason Clark, vice president of 777 and 777X operations, during the ceremony. “It’s going to set a new bar for commercial travel.”
Boeing’s Composite Wing Center will support the production of the longest wing Boeing has ever produced. The 777X features lightweight wing design based on a composite spar made of over 400 miles of carbon tape cured in a specially built autoclave. This results in a wingspan of 235 ft. Because the 777X has such a big wingspan, its wingtips have been designed to fold upward so it will fit at an airport gate.
Toray’s TORAYCA® prepreg has been selected for these main wings. Boeing will source carbon fiber prepreg composite material for the 777X’s empennage and floor beams from a new 50/50 joint venture formed last year by Solvay and Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Company.
The aircraft will be powered by the GE9X – the world’s largest commercial aircraft engine. Last year, the engine completed its initial ground testing. The engine will be in the 100,000-pound thrust class and will include the world’s largest front fan (134 inches in diameter), a composite fan case and 16 fourth generation carbon fiber composite fan blades. The engine also features heat-resistant ceramic matrix composite (CMC) inner and outer liners.