FAA gives Boeing go ahead for 777X folding wingtips

777X wingtips

The US Federal Aviation Administration has given Boeing the go ahead for folding wingtips on its latest 777X aircraft.

Once in operation, the 777X will have the widest wings on any Boeing aircraft with 235 feet, surpassing the 747-8’s 224 feet.

Boeing designed the 777-9 and 777-8 aircraft with longer, carbonfibre wings to improve aerodynamic efficiency compared with the 777-300ER.

To combat issues of airport gate incompatibility, Boeing added a hinge mechanism that allows the wingtip of the 777X to fold while on the ground, allowing the aircraft to use the same gates as the current 777-30ER series.

The folding wingtips on the 777X were designed to meet the same certification requirements as other moving surfaces on an aircraft such as the flaps and landing gear doors. No rules currently exist for folding wingtips in the FAA’s certification criteria under Part 25 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, however, so the agency developed a list of 10 special criteria for Boeing to meet before granting the wingtips approval.

These criteria included the need for several warning systems to prevent pilots from attempting to takeoff before the wingtips are locked in the correct position, as well as assurances that there was no way the tips would rotate during flight, and that the wings could handle winds of up to 75 miles per hour while on the ground.

The FAA’s decision moves the 777X closer to a commercial reality, four and a half years after the aircraft was first announced.

Recent setbacks including a three-month delay in General Electric engine trials, and a delay with the wings have slowed the development of the plane, however, Boeing hopes to have returned to schedule by summer.

The 777X’s first flight is scheduled for Q1 of next year.