Boeing Launches Ultra Long-Range 777

February 16, 2005

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Boeing unveiled a long-range version of its 777 commercial airliner on Tuesday, which the company said will fly from London to Sydney, making it the world's longest-range commercial aircraft.

With the launch of the new 777-200LR (long range) "Worldliner," Boeing is hoping to attract airlines that will transport passengers directly between multiple points.

The new, 301 passenger, long-range 777 is expected to make its first flight in March and will be delivered first to Pakistan International Airlines, its launch customer for the new version of the 777, in January of 2006.

The twin engine plane, when equipped with three optional fuel tanks, will be capable of flying 9,420 nautical miles (17,446 km), enough to "connect any two cities in the world today," said Lars Andersen, Boeing's vice president in charge of the 777 program.

"This is the longest-range airplane in the world," Andersen told a crowd of customers, suppliers, employees and reporters at Boeing's Everett plant north of Seattle, where the 747 and 767 planes are also built.

Even with a full passenger payload in a typical three class configuration, the 777-200LR will be able to connect cities as far-flung as Los Angeles and Johannesburg, London and Sydney, as well as New York and Jakarta, Boeing said.

There's a hitch, though. Although the plane can fly from London to Sydney, it will have to stop once on the return journey since it would be flying against high-altitude jet streams going back.

The 777-200LR will compete directly with Airbus's A340-600 and A340-500, but have seat-mile costs 15 percent to 18 percent lower than those models, Boeing said.

Boeing is also basing its 777 Freighter cargo plane on the 777-200LR that can carry 222,000 pounds (101 metric tonnes) of cargo.

The planes will be powered by two General Electric GE90-115B engines, which the company said is the world's most powerful commercial jet engine, with 115,000 pounds of thrust.

Boeing is betting that airlines will be buying more mid-size jets in the same class as the 777 and its newest model, the 787, to fly passengers between multiple cities, rather than gathering them at big airport hubs and carrying them on larger planes.

The 787, formerly called the 7E7, is also aimed at carrying passengers from point to point at a much lower operating cost, and is expected to take to the skies in 2008.

Boeing's main rival Airbus, which overtook the Chicago-based aerospace company last year as the world's largest commercial jet manufacturer, is betting that people will continue to travel through major airport hubs, with its superjumbo A380 aircraft that will carry up to 840 people in certain configurations.

(Reuters)