Boeing delays 777X jet's first test flight due to bad weather

US plane maker is considering conducting the flight on January 24

A Boeing Co. 777X airplane sits on the assembly floor at at the company's facility in Everett, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, March 6, 2020. The Boeing 777X airplane is scheduled to make its first flight on January 23. Photographer: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg
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Boeing said it will delay the first flight test of its new 777X widebody jet, originally scheduled for January 23 from its production facility in Everett, Washington, due to bad weather conditions in the area.

The US plane maker is now considering rescheduling the maiden flight of its newest aircraft model to Friday, it said in a tweet on its official Twitter account.

"The team is currently assessing the possibility of flying on January 24," Boeing said. "Stay tuned for updates."

The 777X programme is already behind schedule after a series of mishaps hindered Boeing's production of the state-of-the-art ultra-long-haul jet. The delays have provoked the ire of Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, the biggest customer of the widebody aircraft. The Dubai-based carrier ordered 24 fewer planes of the 777X from a total of 126 planes during the Dubai Airshow in November, down from an original order of 150 jets in 2013.

Boeing earlier said the revamped plane, powered by General Electric's GE9X engine and designed to seat up to 426 people, would fly for the first time in early 2020, with the first aircraft expected to be delivered in 2021. It was originally scheduled for delivery in the middle of this year.

The first flight test of the 777X marks an important milestone for the programme and for Boeing, who has been beleaguered by the ongoing crisis of its grounded 737 Max.

David Calhoun, Boeing's new chief executive who replaced Dennis Muilenburg, is facing a daunting set of tasks including returning the 737 Max to commercial service and seeing the 777X to the finish line while repairing frayed relationships with customers, suppliers and regulators.

The 777X, which is priced at $410.2 million for the smaller variant and $442.2m for the bigger model, was launched at the Dubai Airshow in 2013 amid much fanfare when Emirates placed a record-breaking order. Since then, orders for the jet have slowed down.

Boeing's sales chief Ihsanne Mounir expects a rise in orders of the re-engined 777X within three years when airlines start replacing ageing fleets of the older previous 777-300ER models, he told reporters in October in Seattle.

The aircraft is expected to face more scrutiny from US and global aviation regulators in the light of Boeing's 737 Max crisis that shook confidence in the Chicago-based jet maker. The troubled plane, grounded since March after two fatal crashes that killed 346 people, is not expected to gain regulatory approval to fly before mid-2020.

Mr Calhoun told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday that Boeing expects to resume 737 Max production months before its forecasted mid-year return to service, Reuters reported. The company announced in December a production halt starting from January.

The delay in return to service was mainly due to taking into account that Max pilots would need simulator training, and not because of any new glitch, Mr Calhoun said.

Asked about the company’s plans for its proposed new midmarket airplane, or NMA, he said the plane maker is eyeing a new clean-sheet design," Bloomberg reported.