Boeing Begins Building First 777X Despite Challenges

November 06 2017

Boeing has started production of its next new airplane, the 777X, scheduled to fly in 2019 and enter service in 2020. An orange-and-blue robot lowered its drilling end over a long, U-shaped beam of carbon fiber composite, drilled a hole, and then inserted a fastener. With that, Boeing began building the first 777X flight test airplane, destined to fly early in 2019.

The 777X’s swept-back composite wings – the key difference from the 777 – will fold at the tip after landing so that the plane can fit at conventional airport gates. The plane, with a metal fuselage and carbon composite plastic wings and tail, will be assembled in the main Everett plant.

The 777X’s immense composite wings — a scaled-up version of the thin, flexing and air-scything wings on the 787 Dreamliner — are now being fabricated from carbon tape in a giant adjacent building, into which Boeing has poured more than $2 billion of investment in robotic technology.

An automated fiber-placement machine puts down carbon fiber tape to begin making a spar for a wing. The 777X has the longest single-piece spars ever developed. The automated technology is such a revolution that Jason Clark, vice president of 777 operations, called it “a change in the history of how we manufacture.”

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