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Boeing 777X: More Delays, New Test Details Emerge


Nov. 29 2019, Updated 7:54 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, The Seattle Times reported new details about the Boeing 777X stress test in September. The newspaper reported that the test plane’s door blew out during a heavy load test. According to the report, the 777X’s fuselage tore off during the same test at a 99% stress level. The results could delay the 777X’s long-awaited first flight, although Boeing denied the claims.

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Boeing’s 777X faces new challenges

In July, Boeing pushed back the 777X deliveries due to problems with General Electric’s (GE) GE-9X engines. Now that the issues related to the GE-9X have been resolved, the stress test results could add to Boeing’s worries.

777X program is already in trouble

Apart from delays, the Boeing 777X program has faced other issues. Just a few days ago, Emirates decided to order 30 units of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which reduced the 777X order to 126 from 156. Notably, Emirates was the first airline to order the Boeing 777X. Emirates challenged Boeing to make the 777X robust. Emirates President Tim Clark said at the Dubai Airshow, “We need to be absolutely sure that as she comes together, as she starts flying, everything is done in a manner that it should be done.” While talking about the 777X, he also said, “I want one aircraft to go through hell on Earth, basically to make sure it all works.” The comment has a clear reference to the Boeing 737 MAX 8 crisis.

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More delays for the 737 MAX?

Boeing is marred with delays. The return of the ill-fated 737 MAX might get delayed more. On Wednesday, Alan Diehl told CNBC not to bet on the 737 MAX 8 returning in March. The company hopes that the FAA will clear the 737 MAX 8 before the end of the year. However, Diehl thinks that the recertification is at least three months away. After recertification, airlines will need a few months to fly the 737 MAX 8 commercially. The FAA has been very strict in its recertification assessment. This week, the FAA said that it will be the sole party in the certification process. Earlier, Boeing carried out certain tasks in the certification process. The change means that the FAA will check every grounded 737 MAX plane.

Southwest Airlines (LUV), which has 34 737 MAX 8s in its fleet, expects the planes to be back in service by March 4. So far, Southwest has canceled over 30,000 flights due to 737 MAX cancelations. United Airlines (UAL), which has 24 737 MAX 8s in its fleet, is canceling more than 5,000 flights in November and December and then around 3,500 flights until March 4. American Airlines has 14 MAX 8s. The company expects to cancel 140 flights per day until March 4.

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Will the 797 see the light of day?

Currently, Boeing doesn’t have an alternative in the mid-range segment. The 757 and 767 are old and need to be replaced. The 757 hasn’t been in production for some time, while the 767 is mainly produced for cargo requirements. Airbus A321XLR, which already launched to address the gap, would start flying in 2023. However, Boeing still hasn’t decided to build the 797 or New Midrange Airplane. The company wants to focus on bringing the 737 MAX back in the skies.

Delta Air, India’s Spicejet, and many other airlines are waiting for the 797. Some others like American Airlines and JetBlue have already chosen to go with Airbus. If Boeing decides not to focus on building the 797, Airbus could win big.

Widespread issues

Boeing is facing troubles across the board. At the shorter range, the 737 MAX is still grounded. In the mid-range, the decision on the Boeing 797 is pending. At the long end of the range, the 777X has faced delays and 787 Dreamliners are struggling to generate enough demand to keep the current production rate. With over 8,000 widebody orders expected in the next 20 years, the 777X is definitely a plane to watch.


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