Boeing’s new 777X flagship sees potential in cargo and private jets
- The Boeing 777X is poised to be a popular seller in the private jet and cargo areas in addition to commercial airlines.
- Cargo carriers are looking to expand their fleets amid a boom in demand while a 777X private jet can be sold to governments and heads of state.
- Delays in aircraft certification mean cargo airlines and private jet buyers will be waiting for their planes for years.
Boeing’s new flagship aircraft has the potential to be a jack-of-all-trades. But right now, he’s a master of nothing.
The Boeing 777X is set to be certified in late 2023 and there is growing demand for the world’s largest twin-engine passenger plane to carry more than just air passengers. Boeing’s commercial derivatives program is responsible for developing alternative uses for the maker’s commercial planes, and the biggest competitor outside the airline business may be in air cargo.
Cargo carriers are already aware of Boeing’s strengths in developing freighter aircraft, as almost all of the manufacturer’s commercial aircraft have a freighter variant. And a Boeing 777X Freighter would be the natural next step for cargo carriers flying the Boeing 777 Freighter.
Airbus, however, ensured its freighter momentum by launching the A350 Freighter at the Dubai Airshow in November. Global airlines including Air France and Singapore Airlines have already placed orders and made commitments for the plane, which could fly as soon as 2025.
“[Airbus] in particular, in my opinion, have done an incredible job…in terms of creating an incredibly unique aircraft,” Nabil Sultan, Divisional Senior Vice President, Emirates SkyCargo, told Insider.
But Emirates faces the same problem as its counterparts in that there is a desire to expand their fleets now amid a booming period for the air cargo industry. Moving Emirates forward until the Boeing 777X Freighter and Airbus A350F are certified and ready for delivery is the purchase of two current generation Boeing 777 Freighters and conversion plans for four Boeing 777-300ERs which will be transformed into cargo planes by Israel Aerospace Industries.
According to Mike Fleming, Boeing’s senior vice president of commercial customer support and commercial derivative programs, Boeing’s delay in certifying its commercial aircraft such as the 777X, 737 Max 7 and 737 Max 10 prevents the manufacturer to launch the 777X Freighter.
Qatar Airways plans to expand its freighter fleet and could be among the first to place an order for the 777X Freighter once the program finally kicks off. Akbar Al Baker, Managing Director of Qatar Airways, said Reuters that Boeing offered the 777X Freighter for its cargo division.
Boeing is already a natural choice to refresh the Qatar Airways Cargo fleet given that the majority of its planes are Boeing 777 Freighters. But a dispute with Airbus over the paint quality of the A350 XWB delivered to Qatar Airways could make Boeing an even more likely partner.
A lesser known division of Boeing is also preparing to launch the 777X as a private jet. Boeing Business Jets caters to the highest tier of travelers, even beyond ultra-high net worth individuals, and expects customers of the 777X airliner-turned-private jet to be national governments, royal families and heads of state.
“It will truly be the flagship of [Boeing Business Jets and] hopefully in the next couple of years we’ll get our first sale,” JD Detwiler, president of Boeing Business Jets, said of the 777X in Dubai. “This plane has the ability to connect two cities on the planet, it has an effective range approaching 12,000 nautical miles.”
And its $442.2 million price tag is just the tipping point, as interior finishes can cost millions and take over two years.
“You’re probably looking at five years if you sign a contract for a 777X right now because it takes longer to build it and then it takes a lot longer to do the interior,” Detwiler told Insider, noting that only a handful of companies are authorized by Boeing to complete aircraft interiors.
But before any 777X Freighter or Boeing Business Jet can be delivered, passenger airlines will first have to secure their late deliveries.
At present, Boeing is still undergoing flight testing and certification testing to ensure that its new flagship will meet the revised delivery schedule of late 2023. The only passengers who can fly aboard the plane are a team of flight test engineers and pilots who are putting the plane through its paces.