Boeing, a few years back had the 787 on the CAD screen at various locations throughout the world. Engineers from all over weighed in on the physics of this aircraft. What can the 787 do with its make-up and new engines configurations. The vote came in at least 15% fuel improvement. "Now lets go build it", said Boeing. "Our computer models tell us we can fly for 15% less fuel than our own best comparable model now flying. Its a winner!". Since that Eureka moment, even Leonardo da Vinci would be proud of, Boeing proceeded to build the 787 off the screen, testings, models and wind tunnel concepts. It took about 7 years to to get it off the ground. "Viola" it gained 21% fuel improvement in some cases but no lower than 15% in worst cases for fuel sipping improvement. Even though its been plague by the press reported with every little and big glitch, its an extremely safe aircraft because of its overbuilt glitch reporting systems. Glitches are not accidentally found by maintenance checks, but are more often found by purpose built system checking and reporting.
No other aircraft built to date has the the information about every little function working on board and how its performing. The detail of performance is so refined it becomes annoying with failed indicator reports, lights and bells. All the bells and whistles sound off whenever something isn't quite right, even if it turns out its a false indication of something not right. However, the other side of the two edge sward is the performance indication proves the the Boeing engineers were too cautious by saying a 15% percent fuel savings. It ranges from about 18%-22% depending on aircraft configuration and conditions. No too shabby of a prospect for airline customers on long legged routes. An aircraft taking off expends a lot of fuel compared to the rest of the trip. The longer the trip, the greater the fuel load weight it must burn and carry to go further. But the Average of 20% improvement in real time operations is phenomenal over the CAD idea of 15%.
This speaks well for the 777X program, and excites the customers if Boeing can replicate this lesson learned from all of Boeing's empirical data from the 787 project. Boeing has earned a place in the sales world of delivering on reliable information from the drawing board to the flight line. Boeing is claiming a 20% fuel improvement for fuel burn over similar current generation models with the 777X. How this compares with the A-350-1000 is a mystery, since that aircraft has not flown yet. That remains to be seen during the 777X development phase. The development phase will have continuous evolving engines from GE. The engine evolution will go forward right up until the first test model. Then go through a second evolution after test flights, and then have a PIP for new customer models. I get the picture the engines are in a continuous evolutionary mode. The body design can be refined on the CAD and with wind tunnel testing. Lessons learned come forward from the 787 wing building. The 777X's heavier aluminum body over the A350-1000 plastics will not be such a penalty as the flight surface efficiency nullifies a slightly heavier aircraft than the plastic A-350 version of similar size. Boeing will increase airplane volume for that slightly increased weight, maximizing aero dynamics and canceling heavier drag features. This will enhance fuel burn upward to 20% over current existing aircraft in operation today.
The 787 lesson for customers did not go unnoticed. Boeing said, from the drafting board they could get 15% better fuel efficiency on the 787, and then they got 20% better efficiency in real time operations. The 777 X is aiming for 20% better efficiency over existing 777 like models, and Boeing may get more by the time it actually delivers, when using the 787 example as a predictive confidence builder for its customers. That is what is stirring the aviation world at this time, is that Boeing proposes an aircraft that Airbus can't touch in the current building and development cycle. Boeing's computer modeling is slightly understated from the building learning curve and evolution of technology during the build phase. By the time 2020 comes along, the 777X will have squeezed a few more percentage points out of its current 20% model everybody is getting excited about. Japan Airlines has missed the development high ground that Boeing is perched on, While Airbus is stuck building an airplane it never believed in, when it announced it is going to copy Boeing by building an Airplane where Airbus stated, Boeing couldn't succeed with a plastic airplane in the first place. I hope this confuses somebody. ;<)