Air Transport World

Crossing new transport frontiers. (Boeing Co.'s new 777 transport plane series)

With the launching of its new 777 family of widebodies, the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group is pushing the scope of twin-engine commercial-transport operations ever farther, this time to the edge of early 747 capabilities. The 777 program, ostensibly launched last Oct. 15 with a United Airlines order for 34 and options for 34 more, will bring the largest twin-engine transport capacity and range possibilities thus far to the world's airlines when it is ready for service in 1995.

As the airlines continually press the transport manufacturers to find cheaper ways to push an airline seat through the air, the 777 continues the trend toward ever-larger twins with two seats in the cockpit. United ordered its 777s chiefly as replacements for its 46 McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10s, which will all be more than 20 years old when the first 777 arrives. The new 777s will burn 32% less fuel per seat than the DC-10s they replace, according to Boeing officials.

Perhaps even more important, the need for these improved economics is driving Boeing to develop significant changes in the way the 777 and other commercial-transport programs will be managed. And it is bringing an increase in airline participation in the development of such programs. It also may have profound effects on the way world regulatory agencies monitor and ultimately certificate airline transports.

Long-range capabilities

Many of these changes are being spurred by the capabilities of large twins to fly long distances over oceans and to distant areas of the world, coupled with the dramatic economies that they offer over their 3-4-engine predecessors.

The growing airport-congestion problem helped to dictate the large size of the 777, which in its conceptual and early development stages was called the 767-X and was believed to be a derivative of the 767. Not at all. if anything, it will be more like the 747-400, especially in the cockpit-and like earlier versions of the 747 in payload and range capability.

Philip M. Condit, Boeing executive vice president and general manager of the 777 program, says the aircraft will help airlines that need to fly "more people per airplane" in what is becoming "the aviation equivalent of car pooling. …

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