Boeing delays unveiling of new 777X after 737 Ethiopian crash

The ceremonial debut was due to have taken place in Seattle on March 13

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 24, 2010 shows the British Airways logo between tailfins of aircraft parked at Heathrow Airport, west of London.  British Airways on February 28, 2019 announced a multi-billion dollar deal to buy up to 42 Boeing 777 fuel-efficient passenger jets, after Airbus said it would no longer make the A380 superjumbo. / AFP / FILES / Adrian DENNIS
Powered by automated translation

Boeing delayed the debut of its twin-engine long-haul behemoth 777X following Sunday's fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines-operated 737 Max 8 plane.

The US plane maker is focused on "supporting" its airline customer and will not proceed with a planned media event on March 13 to publicly unveil its new plane in Seattle at its Everett factory, Boeing said on Monday.

"We will look for an opportunity to mark the new airplane with the world in the near future," the company said.

Earlier this month, Boeing said its 777X, the world's biggest twin-engine plane, will "officially debut to the world". The event would have coincided with the aftermath of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, in which all 157 passengers and crew on board died.

The delay is a blow to the plane maker after it ended a two-year sales drought for its 777 aircraft when  British Airways parent IAG struck a deal for as many as 42 planes to replace an ageing fleet of 747 jumbo jets.

The Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 Max 8 jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Adaba. Boeing said it is dispatching a team to the crash site to provide technical assistance.

The world's biggest jet maker did not specify a new date for the 777X reveal but said the jet programme is proceeding according to schedule.

IAG ordered 18 of the 777-9, the largest version of the wide-body jet, the plane maker said at the time. The company took options on an additional 24 of the planes. With the options, the deal would be valued at $18.6 billion before customary discounts, Bloomberg said.

Boeing has sought to position the twin-engine behemoth as the heir to its popular, hump-backed 747 jetliner. The 777-9, the first of a two-plane family, will feature Boeing’s widest wingspan and a distinctive look of its own, with wingtips that flip up when the plane is on the ground for manoeuvring near airport terminals.

UAE passengers will be the first to experience the 777X as Dubai-based Emirates is scheduled to be the first airline to take delivery of the plane next year.

Emirates, the world’s largest airline by international passengers, placed a record order of 150 of the world’s biggest twin-engine jet during the Dubai Airshow in 2013. The airline is already the world’s biggest operator of the 777, the new jet’s predecessor.

Parts of the re-engined jet will be made in Abu Dhabi after Strata, the composite plane-parts maker wholly owned by Mubadala Investment Company, last year won a contract from Boeing to manufacture composite empennage ribs for the 777X. Production is slated at Strata’s facility in Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park in the capital. Strata did not respond to request for comment on production updates.

Boeing has secured orders for the 777X from the world’s biggest carriers, with a tally of 358 orders and commitments from some of the world’s biggest wide-body plane buyers.

Boeing and its European rival Airbus are fighting for orders for their biggest twin-engine planes, the 777X and A350.