My previous unsuccessful trip to Paine Field on the Saturday for the first flight of the fourth 777X was followed up by a more successful Sunday visit. The dull and dreary Saturday weather had been replaced by clear skies (the smoke had finally gone away) and the sun was out. The time for takeoff was not going to be great because the sun would be high to backlit, but this was a first flight so the chances of it going on time were limited.
Sure enough, things got dragged out and the sun moved to a more favorable part of the sky. A 777F from Lufthansa Cargo was doing some test flying to provide some other interest and there was plenty of activity generally to photograph. Eventually the 777X was towed. From its parking spot to the south entrance to the Boeing ramp where it could start up.
It taxied up the Alpha taxiway to the hold point and then pulled into position. Normal Boeing practice is to do an accelerated and rejected takeoff before flying. They sat on the threshold and powered up, but the wingtips had not been lowered. I don’t know whether this was a test of the system that is designed to prevent taking off with the wing tips in the wrong position or not, but it seemed that way. Either way, the jet didn’t move.
They then lowered the wing tips, powered up, accelerated and then braked. Taxi back to the threshold again and a long way for some other traffic before they lined up again. The jet wasn’t heavy, but I was slightly surprised how much flap they had for takeoff compared to the other jets I have seen taking off there. Anyway, power on and off they went.
They were due to be flying for a few hours and then landing at Boeing Field so I figured I would make the trip down there for the arrival. On pulling up at Boeing Field, I bumped into my friend David so we were able to talk rubbish about planes for a while waiting for any arrivals. In due course the 777X showed up on approach by which time the light was a lot nicer than it had been for departure. Things may have taken longer than planned and meant the day was not much good for anything else but it was a fun outing and a successful trip.
The test program for the Boeing 777X is gradually increasing and a third jet has been added to the fleet. I stopped by Boeing Field because all three jets were scheduled to fly on this day. Having seen the first two, I was hoping for the third since I haven’t got any shots of it and its livery which is different to the first two. Sadly, I was to be disappointed as they scrubbed the flight.
However, the first two jets did fly. They were both already airborne by the time I got there. The arrival times back for both were supposed to be pretty close but you can’t put too much stock in those times as things on test will be what they will be. I headed to the arrival end for the first of them. It wasn’t that late so the light wasn’t ideal but it was still a bit better as we were well passed the solstice and heading to the equinox. Happy to take the shot of course.
I moved to the other end of the field when the second jet came in. I wasn’t interested in repeating the shot I had already taken (plus I had shot this jet in similar circumstances before) so some images at the other end seemed worthwhile. They landed short but had clearance for a high speed run on the runway so that brought them down to where I was. Fortuitously, they took the exit directly in front of me. I missed the transition of the wingtips while changing cameras. The tips were down in one set of shots but were folded as they taxied off the runway. The wide angle view is a nice one to get of something so large.
On one day, I had an overflight from both of the initial 777X test airframes. The second one went straight over the house in less than ideal conditions but the first came just south of us if a little higher than is sometimes the case for aircraft heading back to Boeing Field. What I noticed in time was that the moon was on the flight path. Not much of a moon to be fair but the moon nonetheless. It crossed it quite nicely!
The first flight of the 777X took place while I was out of the country which annoyed me quite a bit. Having seen the things sitting around at Everett for ages and even watched the taxi trials, I was in the wrong place when they finally got airborne. However, with an extensive flight test program to come, I knew there would be other opportunities. I did manage to be at Boeing Field for a departure on one of the flights. Conditions weren’t great, though.
With the viewing area closed while Boeing parks 737s wherever it can find a space, I was a long way from the rotation point. It was in the rain as it rolled and, while it stayed below the clouds until well past me, things were not ideal. Still, I had seen it fly.
On another occasion I was able to be there when it returned. This had also been a day with some pretty crummy conditions but this time I was seeing the weather starting to improve as the day wore on. A little bit of a wait while they flew test activities over Central Washington was not such a bad thing. Indeed, as they turned for home, the sun was coming out. However, the wind was not abating!
When they called up on approach, I wandered to one side to see how far up the approach I could see. Despite me being to the right side of the runway from their perspective, when I first got a good shot, the jet was actually pointing beyond me to the right. The crosswind was obviously pretty strong. Early in the flight test program, I wonder whether they really wanted to be testing this capability. Of course this then meant I got a head on view as they got closer before running past me. Shots in nice light! Happy guy. In the next year we shall see plenty of these but, for now, I am happy to have got something reasonable of this airframe off the ground.
Boeing has many internal issues with its planes currently but, when it comes to the 777X program, GE is the one that is causing the problems. The lack of engines for the test program means the jets are on the ground. Meanwhile, the production line continues to turn out the airframes at the rate original scheduled. Consequently, there are stored jets around Paine Field. The first two jets were turned out in house colors and have appeared on the blog. Meanwhile, a couple of white jets have appeared and they are stored on the flight line.
The latest two jets I have seen are not even painted. They are in the protective film the airframe is built in which looks a bit like primer. Stored on the airfield, they will get engines at some point and then go to the paint shop. In the interim, they have ballast attached to the engine mounts. The first time I saw one, I thought it was another KC-46 being stored until the fin caught my eye and I realized it was a 777X.
The 777X initial airframe has already made it on the blog when it was parked on the ramp and when it undertook some taxi trials. It has since had the dodgy engines removed and I assume some more trustworthy examples are on their way. First flight will not be this year, though, based on what I am reading in the press. While the start of flying has not been achieved, production has continued. The initial customer aircraft have also now shown up. I understand that Lufthansa will be receiving at least one of these jets. The flight line now has four jets parked up – two in house colors and two all white. Hope we will see them up and active before too long! I hear a fifth came out with Emirates’ wing tips just after I took this! I have another primer one since which is below.
I had a lucky break one evening when I headed up to Paine Field for one thing, only to discover that the 777-9 development airframe was undergoing taxi tests. I got there to see it on the Boeing ramp with cooling fans running to cools the brakes. I was worried that I may have missed all of the action but this was not the case. They had two more taxi trials that they ran before wrapping up. Each time they would have a brake cooling session with the fans.
The engines are a problem at the moment so they don’t have a flight clearance. That means that the taxi trials will not get too fast. High speed taxi trials require a flight clearance to be available should the aircraft get airborne by accident. These were not going to do anything like that so no lifting the nose wheel. Just accelerate down the runway, gather data points and apply the brakes. I wrote a piece for GAR which is here that covered the trial and there is some video below which includes a head on view of the folding wingtips being lowered into the flight position.
Having seen the fatigue test 777X emerged from the production hangars (as I covered in this post), I assumed it had moved to the test area. I once made a drive around the back of the factory at Everett to see some of the discarded airframe structures that they have stored once they are finished with. I wrote about that in this post. The fatigue test area is in the same place so I thought a drive around was a good idea. Sure enough, the 777X was in the fatigue test rig. I guess it will be there for quite a while as they push and pull it to simulate many cycles of loading and see whether the structure has any long term issues to be addressed.
The first two flight test 777X airframes have been on the flight line. However, something different was sitting outside the production hangars at Everett. It was a 777X but it was missing a few more cosmetic parts. This was the fatigue test aircraft. It was being readied for movement around to the area of the plant where they undertake the fatigue testing. This will probably be the last time you get to see it like this. Once testing is done, I suspect it will rapidly end up in pieces for further analysis.
The 777X will make its first flight before too long. Indeed, it might happen before this post goes live but we shall see. It was due to have a roll out at Everett but that was toned down due to the ongoing Max issues. Instead, it rolled out to the flight line where it has been in prep for first flight. (We will get low and high speed taxi runs first of course. I wonder whether I will be able to get up there for the flight or not.). I have seen it parked on the ramp at Boeing’s center. From across the field, it is visible but subject to a lot of heat haze. From the other side of the field it is closer but the view is a bit obstructed. I saw it in the hangar during a previous tour but now it is out and in Boeing house colors. This is a 777-9 version and the folded wing tips are clear to see.