PARIS- In a move to address concerns surrounding the delayed 777X program, Boeing and GE Aerospace have reached an agreement to send an Emirates (EK) Boeing 777-9 to Dubai next year for a two-month route proving period.
This initiative aims to reassure Emirates Airline, the largest customer of the 777X. About the performance and readiness of the aircraft.
Emirates Boeing 777-9 Flights
Confirmation of the plan came from industry sources on the sidelines of a Boeing event held in conjunction with the Paris Air Show.
Emirates President and COO Tim Clark have expressed growing skepticism over the program’s progress. As it has faced repeated delays due to various technical and regulatory challenges.
Initially launched in 2013 with launch customers such as Lufthansa Airlines (LH), Emirates (EK), Etihad Airways (EY), and Qatar Airways (QR), the program has faced setbacks.
Emirates is originally slated to receive the first 777X aircraft as early as December 2019. But now Boeing projects the first delivery to be in 2025. Clark has voiced concerns that the delivery may slip further to 2026.
Emirates currently has an order for 115 Boeing 777X aircraft, making it a significant customer for the program.
The program encountered technical issues with the GE9X engines during early flight testing. Subsequently, leading to a delay as the engines are sent back to GE for analysis, fixes, and repairs.
Additionally, the certification process is hampered by the crisis surrounding the certification of the 737 MAX program. Following two fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019.
The global grounding of the MAX fleet extended to 21 months, affecting the certification work on the 777X.
During the investigation into the MAX crashes, the certification process for the MAX aircraft came under intense scrutiny. Further, including allegations that Boeing bypassed proper development and certification procedures and, in some instances, misled the FAA.
As a result, the FAA intensified its oversight of Boeing and the recertification of the MAX. This increased scrutiny led to a demand for a thorough review of the work already done on the 777X. Further prolonging the certification process.
The ongoing flight testing of the 777X taking place simultaneously with the MAX recertification. This prompted the FAA to insist on a comprehensive evaluation of the work completed so far. Thereupon causing additional delays in the certification timeline.
Tim Clark has been vocal about the program’s delays and technical challenges. He even canceled orders for 35 777Xs and threatened to cancel more during the course of the delays.
Clark’s concerns primarily revolve around the timeliness of the engine’s performance in the demanding Middle East environment and the overall performance of the 777X. He has publicly demanded assurances that the engines will fully mature when the aircraft enters service.
Addressing Concerns with Route Proving
To address these concerns, the decision has been made to send a Boeing 777-9, belonging to Emirates, to the Middle East for a two-month period in the summer of 2024.
This route-proving exercise aims to provide reassurance to Tim Clark and alleviate his reservations regarding the aircraft’s capabilities. Boeing pilots will fly the aircraft during this experimental phase.
Stan Deal, the President of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, confirmed the planned route proving. Citing a similar approach taken with the 787 for launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA).
The 787 programs also faced significant delays, grappling with design, industrial, and production issues.
By conducting route proving in Dubai, Boeing aims to demonstrate the maturity and reliability of the Emirates Boeing 777-9. Ultimately paving the way for the successful entry into the service of the 777X and ensuring customer satisfaction.