As details emerge on Boeing’s 777X, the line-up in the twin-aisle competition is now becoming clearer. The following table is based on known data and our estimates of some of the technical detail.What is emerging is that the 777-8X — ostensibly a replacement for the 777-200 series — is in reality closer to the current specifications of the 777-300ER. The 777-9X is an entirely new airplane category, mid-way between the current 777-300ER and the 747-8. Boeing’s proposed 787-10 will be the replacement for the 777-200.

Airplane
Pax
3 Class
Length Range-NM
767-300ER 218 180ft 5,990
787-8 210* 186ft 7,925
A330-200** 253 192ft 7,200
787-9 250 206ft 8,250
A350-800 270 198ft 8,500
A330-300** 295 208ft 5,828
777-200ER 301 209ft 7,725
777-200LR 301 209ft 9,395
A350-900 314 219ft 8,100
787-10 310 6,950
777-300ER 365 242ft 7,930
A350-1000 350 242ft 8,400
777-8X 345 >209ft 9,400
777-9X 405 250ft est 8,500
748-8 467 250ft 8,000
A380-800 525 237ft 8,300
*158 2-Class B/Y operated by ANA; 210 pax in Boeing estimate
**A330-sharklet add 400nm

Boeing’s 777X strategy is clearly intended to bracket the Airbus A350 but it also threatens to further marginalize the 747-8. Emirates Airlines dearly wants the 747-8 to have a bit more range to allow non-stop Dubai-LAX service. Even if the 747-8I met its original specifications, the range fell slightly short. A 777-9X with our range estimate of 8,500nm — based on market intelligence, which may or may not prove in the end to be the true number–will make that routing with room to spare. Although the -9X will be smaller than the 747-8 in passenger capacity, would Emirates want an entirely new fleet type for those extra passengers?

The 777X is expected to have composite wings and wing box, a lighter aluminum lithium fuselage, new systems, better aerodynamics and new engines. An interesting fact on the fuselage: Boeing considered an Al-Li fuselage in the original development of the 777-200, but at that time production techniques were too challenging. Today Al-Li is easier to work with. It’s 10% lighter than today’s metal fuselage and durability in many ways matches composites without the additional cost and hassle.

Based on current information, we believe the 777X will be a virtually new airplane (the 747-8 is about 80% new).

Boeing management is expected to seek from the Board Authority to Offer (ATO) the 777X this year, with a launch next year. EIS is currently being projected for around 2019. Airbus projects EIS for the A350-900 in 2014, followed by the A350-800 and finally the A350-1000 in 2017.

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