June 7th marks the 20th anniversary of the 777 (Triple Seven) aircraft first flight. The first aircraft off the production line flew on June 7th 1995. The Boeing 777, a personal favorite of mine (just behind the 747), heralded many new technologies and a lot of firsts for a twin engine aircraft. Now in its 20th year of production and flying, nearly 1200 aircraft are in service and approximately 6-8 aircraft are being added every month to this global fleet. The 777 built further on the baseline that was the 767, which demonstrated that Ultra Long Haul flights could be operated by an aircraft with two engines only. A little background into why this is so significant. As per aviation guidelines, every aircraft that flies a route, should have alternate airports along the way, in the event of an emergency landing due to mechanical failure. For instance if an Aircraft is flying Delhi-Mumbai, alternate airports are Jaipur, and Ahmedabad. Generally for aircraft that had to fly trans-oceanic routes or routes that had large gaps in the flight path, where no alternate airport was available, a four engined aircraft was the preferred choice. Airbus made this popular with the 340 ( 4 Engine 4 long haul). Now initially, yes it was perceived as being more reliable, and a safer option. However advances in engineering and engine design, made it possible to meet or even exceed such levels of reliability with just two engines. One of the first long haul aircraft to demonstrate this was the Boeing 767. For this the aircraft had to exhibit high level of reliability and operation even on a single engine. This is termed ETOPS or Extended Time of OPeration on Single engine. An ETOPS rating defines, how far can the aircaft be, from an alternate location, in cruise minutes. For eg. an aircraft rated with an ETOPS rating of 60 minutes, could fly any route, as long as the alternate airport(s) for that route were not more than 60 minutes flying distance away. The 767 was the first twin engine aircraft that was certified for ETOPS of 90 minutes, and which was later revised to 120 minutes, based on reliability and performance. The Boeing 777 was the first aircraft, that was ETOPS 180 certified right from the start! Yep. Now with certain operators, this has been revised upwords to as much as 330 minutes! Essentially allowing it to fly any regular commercial flight route within its range. This aircraft has several biggest/largest/longest, which in no particular order are - - Largest wheels on a commercial liner (on the main landing gear) - The most distinct feature of the 777, that is also the easiest to recognize by this feature, is the six-bogey main landing gear. This reduces the need for more number of landing gears (4 in the case of the 747 or A380), thereby reducing maintenance and weight. - Largest Engine diameter - The Boeing 777 is offered with 3 engine options from GE, P&W and RR. (General Electric, Pratt and Whitney and Rolls-Royce). The GE90, holds the record for the largest engine diameter of any turbofan engine, ever. here's an average person standing in front of the engine. To put it into perspective, the GE90 turbine diameter (the one you see in the pic), is about 128 inches or 12.5 feet, excluding the size of the housing etc. I have seen these engines in person, and one would roughly be the size of a Tata 407, actually bigger than it. They weight about 7.5-8 tons each, and pack enough thrust to rip anything in their wake. Again to give it some perspective, let's just say that the power output of one engine of the 777 (between 75,000-115,000 Pounds of thrust) is nearly 4 times that power output on a regular small aircraft like the A320 or the B737 (22-25,000 pounds). - Longest aircraft in production (when the 777-300 was launched, with a length of 74 meters), superseded by the A340-600 at 75.3 meters. - Biggest Twin engine aircraft weighing in at 167 Tons for the heaviest variant (empty) and 351 Tons Maximum Take off weight. This is more than most 747 variants, and short of the 747-400 at 412 tons. - Longest flight duration and distance - At 22 hours and 42 minutes, the B777 set the record for the longest flight duration and distance (21,601 kms) travelling the long way around the earth, flying east from Hong Kong to London. This was achieved on a 777-200LR (long range). - The first aircraft to be designed completely aided by computers, with a fully fly-by-wire flight deck. - First aircraft to feature a supercritical aerofoil, essentially a change of the generic cross section of the wing design. The 777 has been an airline favorite for the low cost per seat, the high load carrying capacity, and for breaking the industry norm, that you need 4 engines for a large airliner. It can carry anywhere from 250-400 passengers depending on configuration of the cabin. The huge interior volume of the 777 allows for economy seating upto 10 across in some configurations and a spacious 9 across in some cabins. The overhead bins are spacious, and the cabin silent and comfortable, compared to other aircraft. I have personally flown the 777 several times, especially on the 5th longest flight in the world, flying between Dubai and Los Angeles, a flight that takes 17 and a half hours! The 777 not only impresses with its functionality, but also holds an exemplary safety record. Till date there has been only 2 critical malfunctions with this aircraft type, which were traced to ice crystal forming in the fuel/oil heat exchanged. This resulted in one aircraft landing short of the runway, and had to be written off. Other than that, (touchwood) a 777 is yet to be lost due to a mechanical failure. Till date there have been 4 losses in addition, two of the Malaysian flights, MH370 and Mh17 were 777s. One which was lost somewhere over the Indian Ocean and the second which was shot down by a missile. Another two losses were the Asiana air 777 that landed short of the runway in SFO (pilot error), and a ?#@*&%!^$~ pit fire in a Egypt Air 777, which was written off. The 777 has the highest dispatch reliability of any aircraft (99.95%) and is pretty maintenance friendly as well. Boeing is now working on an advanced version of the 777, the 777-X that should offer better range, fuel savings of about 2% just from re-designed engines. A new wing design, inspired from the 787, which should help costs even further. The 777 production line is open till 2018, beyond which, the 777-X should be made available. Here's to another 20 years of this wonderful feat of human engineering!