The Boeing 777’s First Test & Commercial Flights
The Boeing 777 has been the best-selling widebody aircraft to date and a great success for Boeing. The new type was launched in 1994 and is now entering its third generation with the 777X. The story of the popular jet began in June 1994, with a first flight and its commercial service entry just over one year later.
Launching a new aircraft type
Boeing launched the 777 as a new design aircraft to fill the gap between the 767 and the 747. The Boeing 747 had become a popular choice for long-haul high capacity routes. The Boeing 767 followed (entering service with United Airlines in 1982) and took advantage of the introduction of ETOPS rules. Flying twin-engine aircraft on transatlantic routes changed the economies of flights and operations for many airlines.
The Boeing 777 took the possibilities of twin-engine operations further, with higher capacity and range. Boeing proposed an option to extend the 767 as the 767X. However, airlines rejected this, wanting a wider fuselage and improved operating costs, leading to a new, clean-sheet design with the 777.
The 767 proved the possibilities of twins, the 777 offered more. Photo: Getty Images
First flight in June 1994
Boeing launched the 777 project in 1989. Construction took place (as it still does) at Boeing’s Everett facility (with a high level of global subcontracting). The new type took its first test flight on June 12th 1994, under the command of Boeing chief test pilot John E Cashman.
777 production still takes place at Everett. Photo: Boeing
This original Boeing 777 (the 777-200) was the smaller of two variants, designed to meet the needs of US airlines. It was followed by the 777-200ER, not until 1997, and the larger 777-300 in 1998.
The 777-200 then underwent an 11-month test program, using nine aircraft – equipped with General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce engines. This may seem short compared to some testing programs today (the 777X has already exceeded this), but it was the longest program yet for a Boeing aircraft. As well as testing in extreme environments, there was extensive testing of single-engine flying in preparation for an ETOPS 180 rating.
Entering service in June 1995
The Boeing 777 entered service with United Airlines and flew its first commercial flight on June 7th 1995. United Airlines was one of the first customers for the 777, with an order for 34 aircraft (and options for 34 more) in 1990.
This initial 777-200 aircraft was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. The first aircraft using General Electric engines was delivered to British Airways in November 1995, and the first Rolls-Royce Trent powered aircraft went to Thai Airways in March 1996.
United Airlines has remained one of the largest Boeing 777 operators. It has operated 22 777-200 aircraft, plus 60 777-200ER and 22 777-300ER aircraft. It is second only to Emirates, with its incredible 191 aircraft across all Boeing 777 variants, according to data from ch-aviation.com.
The Boeing 777 has been flying now for over 28 years. All variants remain well in service, and the new 777X is on the way – despite continued delays. Feel free to discuss more about this popular aircraft and its milestone events 28 and 27 years ago in the comments.