The 777-200 was launched in 1989 to fill the gap in Boeing’s product catalog between the 747 and the 767. The first 777-200 delivery took place in 1995 and was followed by an increased weight and range variant – the 777-200ER, which entered service in 1997. ETOPS (180 minutes) approval for the 777 came in 1995 with the launch of the 777-200.
After the 777-200, Boeing developed a stretched 777. With a length of almost 74m, the 777-300 became the longest airliner ever produced until it was superseded by the Airbus A340-600. The 777-300 delivered 20% more capacity compared to the 777-200 and went into service in 1998.
In 2000, Boeing launched its next-generation twinjet program. The first model to emerge from the program, the 777-300ER went into service in 2004 and went on to become a hugely successful product, combining the capacity of the 777-300 with the 777-200ER’s range. A second long-range model, the 777-200LR, went into airline service in 2006.
The 777F went into service in 2009 and was based on the structural design and engine specifications of the 777-200LR, and fuel tanks that were derived from the 777-300ER.
In 2013, Boeing formally launched the 777-8 and 777-9. The 777-9 will be a stretched, higher-capacity version of the 777-8 with a slightly lower range. Both models are to be equipped with new generation GE9X engines and feature new composite wings with folding wingtips. At 76.72m long, the 777-9 will become the world’s longest airliner, topping the 76.25m long 747-8. Delivery of these latest 777 aircraft has been delayed a number of times, with Boeing now estimating 2025 for the 777-9.
Boeing 777 Origins and Development
In the late 1970s, Boeing unveiled a number of new models – the twin-engine 757 and 767, and a tri-jet 777 concept. The 757 and 767 were successfully launched, helped in part by ETOPS certifications. The trijet 777 concept was dropped, leaving Boeing with a size and range gap in its product line between the 767-300ER and the 747-400.
In 1986, Boeing unveiled proposals for an enlarged 767, initially named the 767-X, and targeted it as a replacement for early wide-body aircraft such as the DC-10, and to fill its own product gap. Airline customers were uninterested in the 767-X proposals, and instead wanted an even wider fuselage cross-section, fully flexible interior configurations, short- to intercontinental-range capability, and operating costs lower than any 767 stretched version could deliver.
By 1988, Boeing realized that the only answer was to abandon the 767-X and develop an entirely new aircraft to meet airline customer needs; this became the 777 twin jet. By December 1989, Boeing began issuing offers to airlines for the 777.
The design phase for the new twinjet was different from Boeing’s previous commercial airliners. The 777 was the first commercial aircraft designed entirely using CAD, and for the first time, eight major airlines had a role in the aircraft’s development.
By March 1990, Boeing and the airlines had decided upon a basic configuration that featured a cabin cross-section similar to that of the 747, a capacity of up to 325 passengers, a glass cockpit, fly-by-wire controls, and lower operating costs than both the A330 and the MD-11. Boeing selected its Everett facility in Washington, home of 747 production, as the 777’s final assembly site where it doubled the size of the factory to provide space for two new 777 assembly lines.
On October 14, 1990, United Airlines became the 777’s launch customer when it placed an order for 34 aircraft with options on an additional 34. Major assembly of the first aircraft began on January 4, 1993. On April 9, 1994, the first 777 was rolled out and the first flight took place on June 12, 1994. This marked the start of an 11-month flight test program that was more extensive than testing for any previous Boeing model. At the successful conclusion of flight testing, the 777 was awarded simultaneous airworthiness certification by the FAA and EASA in April 1995. The first 777-200 was delivered to United Airlines in May 1995.
Boeing 777 Orders
By the end of January 2023, Boeing had received 2,352 orders for the 777 in total since its launch in 1990. The most popular 777 to date is the 777-300ER which received a total of 880 orders, or 37.4% of the total 777 orders.
As of the end of January 2023, there are 440 unfulfilled orders for the 777, as follows:
- 777-300ER – 6 aircraft.
- 777-X (777-8 and 777-9) – 353 aircraft, with nearly two-thirds of these going to Middle-Eastern carriers.
- 777F – 81 aircraft.
Boeing 777 Variants
The 777 was designed to bridge the gap between Boeing’s other widebody aircraft – the 767 and the 747, and also to replace older aircraft produced by other manufacturers such as DC-10s and L-1011s. Therefore, the ability to fly long-haul was an important design factor. The 777-200LR and the 777-30ER (as will the 777-8 and the 777-9) have impressive ranges enabling the 777 to serve some of the world’s longest commercial air routes.
The 777 variants, including freighters, have a wide spread of ranges varying from around 8,200km to 16,200km, with the 777-8 expected to have the longest range of all 777 variants, similar to the A350-1000.
The main 777 variants are listed below:
|Aircraft Model||Type||First In Service||Launch Customer|
|777-200LR||Passenger||2006||Pakistan International Airlines|
First Generation (777-200, 777-200ER, 777-300)
In May 1995, the first 777-200 aircraft was delivered to United and entered service the following month. By this time Boeing was already hard at work on the extended-range version of the 777-200. The first 777-200ER was ordered in August 1991 and was first delivered to British Airways in February 1997.
The 777-200, had a maximum range of 9,695km (5,235nmi) and was designed primarily for airlines operating domestic flights within the USA. The 777-200ER has an increased fuel capacity compared to the 777-200 and a significantly higher maximum take-off weight. With a maximum range of 13,080km (7,065nmi) the 777-200ER’s target market was international airlines operating transatlantic flights.
The Boeing 777-300 was a stretched version of the 777-200 aimed at carrying more passengers and as a replacement for the 747-100 with its ability to carry a similar number of passengers but with improved fuel efficiency. Cathay Pacific was the 777-300 launch customer receiving its first order in May 1998. The 777-300 is over 10m longer than the 777-200. The 777-300’s range of 11,165km (6,030nmi) allows it to operate on major transcontinental routes.
777-300 orders dried up with the introduction of the 777-300ER in 2004 and the last 777-300 delivery took place in 2006.
|Range||5,235nmi (9,695km)||7,065nmi (13,080km)||6,030nmi (11,165km)|
Second Generation (777-300ER, 777-200LR)
The Boeing 777-300ER completed its first test flight early in 2003 and went into service with Air France in 2004. This variant has become the most popular of all the 777 variants with almost 900 aircraft ordered by December 2022.
The 777-300ER is a significant improvement over the 777 classics with elongated and backward-tilted wingtips, new main landing gear, reinforced front landing gear, auxiliary fuel tanks, and reinforcements of the fuselage, wings, empennages, and engine attachments. The 777-300ERs maximum range of 13,649km (7,370nmi) is made possible by an increase in MTOW compared to the 777-300 and a corresponding increase in fuel capacity.
When it entered service in early 2006 with launch customer Pakistan International Airlines, the 777-200LR model became the world’s longest-range commercial jet. The 777-200LR was designed to serve on extremely long-haul flights such as Los Angeles to Singapore.
The 777-200LR was developed in parallel with the 777-300ER, and incorporates similar design improvements to the 777-300ER such as an increased MTOW, auxiliary fuel tanks, rear-sloping wingtips, redesigned landing gear, and structural strengthening. With a range of 15,843km (8,555nmi), the 777-200LR currently is the longest-range 777 but will be eclipsed by the 777-8 when this comes into service.
|Range||7,370nmi (13,649km)||8,555nmi (15,843km)|
777X (777-8, 777-9)
The Boeing 777X is the latest series in 777 family, and will feature new GE9X engines, new composite wings, increased cabin width, and many technologies derived from the 787. The 777X will feature innovative folding wingtips. The older 777 variants are FAA Group V. However, the 777X variants, with wings unfolded, fall into Group VI, but with folded wings, they also fall into Group V making them easier to taxi around airports.
The 777X was launched in November 2013 with two variants: the 777-8 and the 777-9. The 777X flew for the first time in January 2020. Lufthansa is expected to be the launch customer for the 777X (777-9), probably in early 2025. Boeing claims that the 777X will be “the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet.” Compared to existing 777 variants, the 777X is expected to deliver lower fuel consumption and reduced fuel costs by up to 20%.
The 777-8 will be the smaller version of the 777X family, with a range of 16,170km (8,730nmi) and seating for up to 384 passengers. The 777-9 will be the larger 777X variant with a longer fuselage and higher seating capacity. With a range of 13,500km (7,285nmi), the 777-9 will have a lower range than the 777-8.
|Range||8,730nmi (16,170km)||7,285nmi (13,500km)|
|Wingspan||Folded: 64.8m / Unfolded: 71.75m|
Freighters (777F, 777-8F)
The 777F is based on the 777-200LR and can travel 9,200km (4,970nmi); with a full revenue payload of over 100t it has a similar cargo load capacity as a 747-200. The 777F is currently the most powerful twin-engine freighter in the world. This aircraft began flying in February 2009 with Air France.
The Boeing 777-8F is part of the 777X family and will have an 8,170km (4,410nmi) range and a maximum revenue payload of 112t. The 777-8F has about the same cargo capacity as the 747-400 freighter while using 30% less fuel, and emitting 25% less emissions. The 777-8F was launched in January 2022, and the first delivery is expected in 2027.
|Range||4,970nmi (9,200km)||4,410nmi (8,170km)|
|Wingspan||64.8m||72.8m unfolded / 64.9m folded|
|Revenue payload||102 tonnes||112 tonnes|
The hugely successful 777 has evolved over a number of decades – in a separate article we looked in detail at the specs of the various variants. The first 777 delivery took place in 1995 and with around 2,350 orders to date (and more likely to come with the launch of the 777X program around 10 years ago), the 777 will be transporting passengers and freight around the world for many years to come.