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Engineers at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, plant are one step closer to getting Boeing’s new 777X aircraft airborne. Engineers this week joined the three sections of the fuselage on the first test aircraft. The aircraft is slated for its first test flight sometime in March 2019. This test aircraft will serve as Boeing flying test bed for what will be the new Boeing 777-8 and 777-9 aircraft. A static ground test aircraft was completed earlier this year.

The new 777X has folding wing tips allowing the new larger aircraft to operate at any airport — code E rated— that already serves current 777 aircraft. The new wingspan, a massive 235 feet while configured for flight, can be folded up after landing to allow the aircraft to safely and comfortably operate at any airport that currently serves Boeing 777s. The folding wings add 23 feet overall to the length of the wing in flight increasing aerodynamic efficiency in the air. Boeing claims that the 777-9 version will save operators 10% compared to the Airbus A350-1000.

The new plane is being paired with a new power plant to help give those massive wings their lift. The new GE9X engines will power the behemoth skyward in that first test flight next year. Although the GE9X engines have had some production setbacks, everything now seems to be on schedule for that first test flight in March. GE is touting a 5% specific fuel consumption savings over any other engine in the market place. GE first tested the new engine earlier this year on its own Boeing 747 test aircraft.

New wings and new engines aren’t the only improvements on the new 777X; Boeing is adding larger windows. The new windows will be 29% larger than those on the Airbus A350 and 12% larger than those on the current 777. These new windows are also getting a higher placement in the fuselage. This will hopefully give those passengers who love their window seats even more amazing views while trekking through the skies. Boeing has also widened the body of the aircraft slightly by four inches. This was accomplished by narrowing the interior wall of the fuselage. New interior LED lighting and larger overhead bins will round out the cabin upgrades passengers can expect when the first aircraft is delivered. Lufthansa is slated to be the launch customer for the new 777X. Boeing currently has commitments for 326 777X aircraft with carriers including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.

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