• Sanjay Manival Raju

Boeing 777x: Innovation at its Wingtips!

Commercial Air travel has become quite frustrating hasn’t it?

It's not a privilege anymore unless you are traveling business or first class. The reason being, it is expensive to operate not just an aircraft but manage this complex ecosystem. One way of reducing costs, is through fleet planning.

Budget airlines that service domestic routes are consistent with the choice of aircraft, to standardize operations and maximize profits. Operating an aircraft is what brings revenue and drives cost, so the airlines decide to choose the best, in other words the most efficient.

This requirement prompts major aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus to develop newer models and gain market share.

Boeing 777x, the latest, highly efficient long range, twin engine jet that made its first flight on January 25, 2020. A substantial amount of efficiency comes from its unique and most talked about feature- The folding wingtips. This component is extended before take-off and retracted just after touchdown.

Lets unfold this innovative feature and the purpose behind its inclusion.

We are all aware of the aerodynamic principle “lift” by which airplanes fly.

Here is a cross section of a wing, better known as an aero foil.

Lift is generated, due to the pressure difference between the upper and lower surfaces of the wing.

The wingspan of the 777x is 235 ft and 5 inches when extended and 212ft and 8 inches when retracted. This wingspan is same as that of its older sibling, the Boeing 777.

Thus, the 777x can cruise efficiently with a wingspan of 235ft, generating greater lift, higher payload capacity and range. Boeing claims that operating a 777x can bring 10% reduction in areas of fuel usage, costs and emissions making it a sustainable choice for the environment.

So, to understand the influence of a larger wingspan, let us commission a glider to visually review the aerodynamic principle.

A glider is a distinguished category of aircraft capable of flying a considerable distance with just an initial propulsion. It does not require any power source while in flight unlike the traditional aircraft.

A glider leverages wind conditions and its structural design to enhance flight characteristics. Its made with lightweight materials and designed for increased aerodynamic performance.

But notice the large wingspan permitting airflow over a large area, this always keeps the aircraft afloat providing greater lift and stability.

The wingspan is the most crucial part of its design that makes the glider do what its supposed to even in the absence of a power supply.

A commercial aircraft can simply be termed as a sophisticated glider with an ability to fly or glide for a brief period in an unlikely scenario when all its engines fail.

Unlike the A380's wingspan of 262 ft, that required large scale infrastructural changes upon its induction, the 777x can be accommodated at all airports/gates as this mechanism will shorten its wingspan while on the ground.

High operating costs and profitability models in aviation is what caused a few exceptional aircrafts to be retired.

One such aircraft that deserves a mention here is the quadjet Airbus A340.

I think the A380, better known as the queen of skies, will soon enter this wake as we have more advanced jets like the A350, 787 and now the 777x.

Not just myself but I am sure the entire aviation community will root for Boeing and its breakthrough that has perhaps helped it recover from the 737-max stall.

Either ways, its quite unfortunate to see the entire world plunge into distress due to the Covid 19 crisis that has noticeably put aviation into a nosedive.

I hope you are all doing good out there. Take care and Stay safe!

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