Almost everyone is familiar with the famous Boeing 747, a large and iconic commercial aircraft that’s used in both cargo transport and passenger travel. Well, sit back little brother, because here comes Boeing’s 777x, a new plane designed with an impressive wingspan of 235 feet. Unfortunately for the 747’s new big brother, those wings need to be clipped.
Most airports aren’t able to accommodate the enormous wingspan of the new 777’s; the gates just aren’t big enough. So rather than making airports build bigger gates, or trimming the wings of the 777x, Boeing came up with the bright idea to fold the wings.
The 235-foot wingspan of the 777’s will be cut down to just 212 feet once the wings are built with hinges. The design received approval from the FAA on May 18, with the stipulation of a few conditions that Boeing has to meet for the new aircraft. The wings are only to be folded while the plane is on the ground and Boeing is not allowed to store fuel in the folding sections. Boeing is also required to create a thorough design that has contingencies in place for mishaps, such as the wings folding mid-flight.
So if it’s such a headache, why go through the trouble? The traditional 777 has a wingspan of 213 feet and is a wide-bodied plane with dual engines. The new 777’s, which will be referred to as the 777-8 and 777-9, will have more than 20 feet of additional wingspan. The reason for the jump in size, and why engineers at Boeing would rather implement hinges than alter the design, is due to cost efficiency.
According to a quote in Popular Science by Gary Ulrich, an associate professor at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota, the longer wings will reduce drag on the plane. This will cut down on fuel costs and save the airlines more money as fuel prices rise. Compared to a plane with the same wingspan surface area, the plane with the longer wingspan will create less drag than the plane with the shorter one.
Out of all domestic trips, 78% of are taken for leisure purposes. The new 777-8 will be able to seat 375 people and the 777-9 will seat 425 people, making these new planes a formidable force in the aviation world and a popular public option. What, if any, in flight entertainment companies Boeing will contract for the new planes, and what types of IFE systems they will implement is still unknown. Whichever of the in flight entertainment companies they pick, hopefully, the inside of the plane is as impressive as the outside.
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