With its rival’s A350 well on the way, Boeing wants to secure its stake in the profitable twin engine long-haul sector. It has updated its 777 at the Dubai air show by unveiling the 777X. The new plane secured a record order of 224 aircraft from Middle East airlines, taking its order book to nearly $100bn. The new plane borrows from the technology of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, including composite carbon fibre construction for its new wing. At 223 feet, the longest for a twin-engined plane, it is too big for many airports. Innovation number one is to borrow from carrier-borne aircraft and have a wing that folds on landing. The wingtips fold 10 feet before it docks at the gate.
The second innovation incorporates holes in the tailplane to improve airflow across it and reduce turbulence and therefore drag. This increases the plane’s fuel efficiency, as do its GE9X engines with fans of 132 inches, even larger than those in the 777’s GE90 engines, previously the largest. This enables the engines able to deliver the power of the GE90, but with much less fuel.
Great innovations, and what drives them is competition. If either Airbus or Boeing had the sky to themselves, we wouldn’t see new ideas coming on stream at the rate they do. Each wants to outsell the other, with big bucks at stake whenever they come up with a winner.
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