Boeing is delaying development of the 777-8, the ultra-long-range version of its widebody 777X family, which includes the 777-8 and the slightly larger 777-9. While the company had not previously announced a planned entry-into-service date for the 777-8, it is being considered alongside an ultra-long-range version of the Airbus A350 for Qantas Airlines’ Project Sunrise, a plan that aims to launch nonstop flights from Sydney, Australia, to long-range destinations including London, England, beginning in 2022. It is unclear how much the 777-8 delay will affect Boeing’s chances of partnering with Qantas for the project, but the airline is expected to select the Project Sunrise aircraft by the end of 2019.
“We reviewed our development program schedule and the needs of our current 777X customers and decided to adjust the schedule,” a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement. “The adjustment reduces risk in our development program, ensuring a more seamless transition to the 777-8. We continue to engage with our current and potential customers on how we can meet their fleet needs. This includes our valued customer Qantas.”
According to Boeing, the 777X program is “progressing well through preflight testing” with a target of late 2020 for the first deliveries of the 777-9. However, the company says there is “significant risk to this schedule given engine challenges, which are delaying first [777-9] flight until early 2020.” Both versions of the aircraft are powered by the GE Aviation GE9X engine. The 777-9 will carry as many as 426 passengers with a range of 7,285 NM. The 777-8 is expected to seat up to 384 passengers and have a range of up to 8,730 NM.