Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has won approval from US regulators to produce a new wing design for its new wide-body 777 aircraft that allows the tip to fold vertically when the jet is on the tarmac.
Dubbed the “new Boeing B-777 Folding Wingtip Airplane”, the design aims to make it possible for the aircraft type to operate on taxiways and to airport gates that only accommodate narrower wingspans.
The twin-engine jet will feature a 71.5-metre wingspan when in flight – longer than that of the 747-8 Intercontinental – providing an enormous amount of lift capability. When activated, the wingtips will rise upwards and reduce 777X’s wingspan to 64.5 metres.
Similar to the Dreamliner produced by Boeing, the wing of the 777X will be made of a lightweight carbon composite material.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said, “The success of this design feature will likely result in its application to future airplane models.” In an engineering brief on the proposed wing, the FAA said that “information from Boeing states that wingtips will be extended as soon as feasible prior to the runway end along a taxiway parallel to a runway for takeoff, and prior to entering the taxiway system on landing”.
Last year, Boeing’s Chief Project Engineer of the 777X, Terry Beezhold, said the aeroplane will be “the most efficient twin-jet aircraft ever developed in commercial history”.
Beezhold said the folding wing will enable airlines to operate at any airport, at any gate that today’s 777 can service.
“From the very beginning, we focused on the safety for the folding wingtip. We approached it with the same way we approach any of our flight control system design,” Beezhold added.
“We think about the redundancy of the actual fold mechanism, some of the locking pins, the latches, that we have a primary and secondary latch system. We have multiple layers of redundancy and layers of protection to ensure that the folding wingtip always remains extended in flight and only folds when it is commanded.”
The 777X is expected to make its first test flight in early 2019 and enter commercial service by the end of the same year. Boeing has more than 320 777X aircraft orders to date, with customers including Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, ANA, United and launch customer, Emirates, which has 150 units on backorder.