Several Boeing 777X aircraft are seen in various stages of production during a media tour of the Boeing 777X at the Boeing production facility in Everett - Reuters
REUTERS: Boeing Co has pushed back the entry into service of an ultra-long-range version of its forthcoming 777X widebody, the US planemaker said last week, as it grapples with fallout from the 737 MAX crisis and engine issues with the 777X.
The fresh delay comes as the grounding of Boeing’s money-spinning 737 MAX single-aisle entered a sixth month in August, and as the world’s largest planemaker faces engine-related delays on the 777X widebody that have pushed the first flight of the 777-9 into 2020.
The delay in the slower-selling, longer-range 777-8 will hamper Boeing’s ability to provide a plane in line with the schedule for Qantas Airways Ltd.’s plan for 21-hour non-stop Sydney-London flights.
The Australian airline had hoped for first deliveries of the planes in 2022 and the launch of the world’s longest commercial flight in 2023.
“We reviewed our development program schedule and the needs of our current 777X customers and decided to adjust the schedule,” Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said by e-mail, adding that the manufacturer remained committed to the 777-8.
“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.”
The Air Current website first reported the delays, saying the 350-seat 777-8 model revised for ultra-long-range flights had originally been scheduled to enter service in 2022 after the arrival of the 777-9 in 2020.
The decision effectively means Boeing engineers have frozen development work on the ultra-long-range version of the 777X. The schedule delay could jeopardise competition with European arch-rival Airbus SE for a slice of the ultra-long-haul travel market. Airbus, which is offering an ultra-long-range version of its A350-1000, and Boeing have already submitted their “best and final” offers to Qantas for planes capable of the 17,000 km (10,560 mile) Sydney-London route, a Qantas spokesman said.