It brings the lowest fuel burn of any engine in service along with a haulage capacity of 50 tonnes
Given the pace of the growth of these three Arabian airlines, it was almost inevitable that the 777X charge would be led by the very customers that had pushed for it most.
Emirates employs the world's largest fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs — indeed, it was the first airline in the world to operate all six variants of the 777 and it comes as no surprise that the 777X family is being spearheaded by them too — the
But just why is 777X so important to the likes of Emirates and other 777 operators?
777X brings the best of the current 777 family interior comfort — the widest cabin of any long haul twin aisle, twin engine airplane — it brings the lowest fuel burn of any engine in service along with a unique haulage capacity of 50 tonnes or more, allowing destinations such as
Airlines today are enjoying to 20 per cent or more greater fuel savings of the 787-8 compared to 767-300ERs, A330-200s and A330-300s. Dual A330 and 787 operators are seeing fuel savings, depending on mission profile of over 20 per cent in the 787-8s favour. While the 787 Dreamliner programme was mired with delays,
Emirates has been impacted hard by the A380 wing-rib cracking fiasco if only because it is the biggest operator of the A380. Emirates has been slow to phase out its ageing A330-200s while it copes with increased passenger demand and has relied relentlessly on the 777-300ER fleet to support it during these challenging times. Add in the delays to the A350XWB, Emirates is acutely aware that new airplane programmes bring risk — but that the 777X mitigates a lot of that risk by way of virtue thanks to its matured, efficient and seamless supply and production chains — and that risk is further suppressed by the fact that 777X will be built in Everett too.
777X will of course hit the 747-8 Intercontinental — an airplane that Emirates was close to buying to operate alongside its Airbus A380 fleet, but
But all these dizzy-height and big number dollar value orders come at a price. And pricing is crucial to purchases. Beyond the discounts airlines get for being launch customers, asset value is just as important — value erosion can make an airplane uneconomical to operate.
There is a ceiling on large airplane pricing — the decimated dollar-value of the A380 order book shows that while customers will happily buy big jets, they do not always command the biggest premium. Emirates is acutely aware of the continued decline in A380 values — the 777X effectively ends their interest in the A380 in its current form and there is no guarantee that a stretched or even re-engined A380 would cut the mustard any more. Despite ordering 50 more A380s, primarily as replacement for its early build and overweight A380s, much of which is leased, Emirates, like other A380 operators know that the second hand market for this airplane is effectively dead. Once A380s start leaving Emirates' fleet, for them to find homes or second lives at another carrier looks about as bright as an eclipse.
Emirates knows that
The A350-1000 has neither the legs nor capacity to match the 777-9X and Emirates decision to buy 115 of them effectively seals the fate of the
As a result,
Both can haul significantly more passengers and payload with lower fuel burn. The 777-9X specifically can manage this with up to 12-14 per cent lower fuel burn per seat with 50 tonnes of freight in higher density configurations that Emirates had targeted for this particular airplane.
While the 777-8X may not be as svelte at the A350-1000 in the weight category, the excess weight actually plays to its advantage. With a higher MTOW (maximum take-off weight), the 777-8X will have better runway/field performance versus the A350-1000 with a bigger, optimised wing with an all-new, not derivative engine, while also being able to carry a combination of either more passengers, freight or both — all over ranges much farther and at significantly lower seat mile costs versus
It matters not that the 777-8X won't be a big volume seller. The orders to date would more than cover development costs.
A spin-off benefit is of course the 777-8X Freighter (777XF) that will emerge perhaps towards the tail end of the next decade — and with all three Arabian airlines currently operating 777Fs, the advent of 777XF will be a welcome addition to their 777-8X and 777-9X fleets.
The GE9X engine too, is a revolutionary propulsion system that harnesses the best of the GE90-115B, GEnx and LEAP engines. From its TAPS-3 combustor to its industry-leading 60:1 overall pressure ratio, the GE9X is already on track to meet the required 10 per cent fuel burn reduction versus that of today's 777-300ER.
With the CFM International LEAP-1A/C engine test bed already validating the robustness and reliability of new components like CMCs, composite fan blades, cases and case-mounted gearboxes, the GE9X is arguably an amalgamation of engines honing in on the GE's reliability success seen on the GE90-115B with a 99.99 per cent departure reliability rate with an IFSD rate of less than 0.001 per cent.
At the same time,
Judging by the pent up demand for the 777X family in just 24 hours after its launch, it is fair to say that
The writer is chief analyst at
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