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Boeing 777X: Is it the planemaker’s comeback after a lethal 737 MAX?

The Boeing 777X completed its first flight this past Saturday, and is the world’s largest twin-engine jet.

The Boeing 777X has yet to receive regulatory approval The jet boasts the "most powerful engines ever mounted on a commercial airliner: General Electric GE9X" Aside from the 777X, most of the responsibility of restoring Boeing's status rests on the shoulders of new CEO Dave Calhoun, who was appointed last month

After ill-designed software caused two fatal crashes that cost the lives of 346 people, Boeing has been mired in controversy and scrutiny. It’s truly had its fair share of bad news. 

Could the bold new jet, the Boeing 777X, help the US planemaker win some PR points with the public, touting it once more as an innovative designer of aircraft? And what role will the company’s new CEO play in improving its image? 

The Boeing 777X completes its first flight

After 2 unsuccessful attempts, the Boeing 777X, the world’s largest twin-engine jet, completed its maiden flight. Bad weather had hindered two previous attempts. 

It made a 4-hour trip from Everest, Washington to the Boeing Field in Seattle, completing the first step in its field testing. 

Boeing hopes the 777X could prove its moment of respite after the fallout from the two MAX crashes. It has great expectations of its new plane: 

“The new Boeing 777X will be the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, unmatched in every aspect of performance. With new breakthroughs in aerodynamics and engines, the 777X will deliver 10% lower fuel use and emissions and 10% lower operating costs than the competition,” Boeing says on the 777X offiicial webpage

The 777X is a larger and more efficient version of Boeing’s successful 777 mini-jumbo, BBC explains.  

Foldable wingtips? 

Among the 777X’s most notable features are its foldable wingtips. While the wingtips will aid the jet’s aerodynamics, they will also allow the plane to fit within existing airport infrastructure, like taxiways and gates. 

You can see a video showcase by Boeing here

Image: Boeing

As for other notable features, CNN states that under the jet’s wings are the “most powerful engines ever mounted on a commercial airliner: General Electric GE9X. These develop an incredible 105,000 pounds of thrust apiece while reducing fuel burn by 10% from their predecessor GE90 engine.”

“Boeing’s new 777X is expected to enter service in 2021 – with development issues meaning this is a year later than planned,” Sky News reported.

Boeing’s new CEO has his work cut out for him

After months of struggle with the 737 MAX drama, Boeing let go of its then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg last month, who they must hope will steer them away from the waters of controversy. He’s certainly got his work cut out for him. 

Internal communication documents previously released to regulators eventually found their way to the media, and these emails, chat messages and other files have painted a troublesome image of the ongoings at the US planemaker. 

David Calhoun, President and CEO of Boeing. Image: Boeing

According to the BBC, “messages that were emailed in April 2017, a month after the first version of the plane was certified, show one employee described the airplane as ‘designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.'”

The documents also showed a lack of surpervisory oversight when it comes to plane design and the handling of the FAA. 

To put matters to rest, Calhoun met with his employees in Seattle and then held a conference call with reporters, according to NPR.

“First of all, welcome. I hope this is the first of many of these. And I commit to you to be more accessible than the team has been historically,” he started. 

Calhoun’s position is a tough one, and his dialogue centered mostly on damage control and reconciliation with the public. 

“I believe this culture is a good one,” Calhoun said. “Our employees care about safety first. They do that. They walk that talk, but their confidence is, right now, shaken. My job is to re-instill it.”

Still, some news outlets like the Seattle Times (ST) believe his approach won’t be enough. 

“In the first public test of Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun’s tenure, he failed to demonstrate that he’s the transformative leader the embattled aerospace titan needs, ST said. “Instead, in an interview with reporters Wednesday, he was combative and defensive of the company’s actions.”

ST continued: “The world is watching to see if Boeing understands the depth of its crisis. Neither Calhoun nor the rest of Boeing’s board of directors can afford to gloss over how urgently the company needs to restore its values.

“The trust of the flying public depends on Boeing restoring its corporate integrity. Any Boeing board member, including Calhoun, unwilling to acknowledge the extent of transformation required should step aside for leadership that wants to build for the long term.”