Boeing's latest airliner has begun production ... untouched by human hands. Watched by an invited crowd at the Boeing production hangar in Everett, Washington, a one-armed robot on Monday started drilling into a 108-ft (33-m) long composite wing spar as the first step in assembling the long-range, wide-body 777X prototype. Billed as the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world, it's scheduled to fly in 2019.
Launched at the 2013 Dubai Airshow, the 777X is designed to build on the engineering and interior innovations introduced in Boeing's 777 and 787 Dreamliner. With a list price starting at US$350 million, the twin-aisle 777X comes in the 777-8 and 777-9 variants with a range of up to 8,700 nautical miles (10,012 mi, 16,110 km) while seating between 350 and 425 passengers.
But what makes the 777X stand out is its lightweight wing design based on a composite spar made of over 400 miles (644 km) of carbon tape cured in a specially built autoclave. This results in 23 ft (7 m) more wingspan for a total of 235 ft (72 m). This allows the plane to maximize fuel efficiency in combination with its GE9X high-bypass turbofan aircraft engine, which punches around 100,000 lb of thrust and is ten percent more efficient than its predecessor.
It also means that the 777X has a distinct folding wingtip design to allow it to use standard airport gates. In addition, Boeing says that the 777X has larger windows that are easier to look out of, new lighting, and more interior carryon luggage storage.
There are 326 orders on the books for the Boeing 777X from Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qatar Airways, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, and others.
The video below shows the first step of the new 777X's assembly.