Friday, June 6, 2014

Boeing Wings Reduce Drag At The Airport

Boeing had a problem, but not anymore. Its 747-8I, with its large wing span covered more acreage than airports could not keep manufacturing. If another colossal span comes to the flight line, then they may not have enough space. The A380 creates shadows as big as downtown sky scrapers. Causing more real estate that airports cannot spare easily for the price of parking its Super Jumbo in the Jetway areas. The 777 has been around for almost 20 years and most major airports have spent millions building terminals and Jet-ways just for the 777. Then Boeing comes along and proposes the 777X line that would extend the wing further out so it may achieve extreme fuel savings and improved lift. Did Boeing talk to airports around the world if this would be alright? No it didn't. It would be a major problem fitting the 777X into 747 and A380 space as the orders for the 777X aircraft multiply.

Having established a problem without further airport consideration, Boeing realized if we are to get this thing off the ground it won't be coming from A super Jumbo Parking space, but it will come from already established 1st generation 777 slots. So now Boeing has achieved recognition for its airport customers, in a big way. It is going to fold the wing up on the tips when parked, and down when gaining superior lift and less drag from that wing when extended in flight.

Boeing Details 777X Wing-Tip Control Options

May 12, 2014
"The design team also is defining how crews will control the wing-fold mechanism that will raise the outer 11 ft. of each wing tip to allow the 777X to park in existing 777 gates. The device, which will reduce overall wing span from 233 ft., 5 in. extended to 212 ft., 9 in. folded, has been scrutinized since early 2013, “when we realized it was new and novel,” says Carriker. Boeing first developed an optional wing-fold concept for the baseline 777-200 in the 1990s, but it was never adopted. The 777X fold system, which is now part of the baseline design, is simpler to actuate and lighter, according to the company. It is “designed to not fail in flight and never come off, similar to a flap,” Carriker adds."


After millions of flight hours and from taking off or landing from aircraft carriers, a folding wing plane will fit nicely in at established airports that already have ports for the 777-300er and 777-200. The 777x extended wings will fold and chop off 22 feet of parking space needed from its two outer wing tip flight configuration, similar to actuated wing flaps mechanisms on the horizontal main wing. The wing tips will lock in place when down and remain unmovable during flight. Once its in a taxi mode. after leaving the main landing runway, it will simply unlock wing tips, raise them vertically, and then taxi over to its final destination at the airport. Since the wings fold up in a few seconds, it will hardly go unnoticed. Chief engineer and test pilot Mike Carriker, goes on and tells how simple the process is, and how dependable folding wings have been during the last Seventy plus years, since WWII. It is not a complex issue, but has become needed while airplanes have grown so much since 1969 from the 747 until now.

(Updated) From Aviation Week Link

The span is also growing by 2 ft. to 235.5 ft., with the additional length being added outboard of the folding wingtip that is being developed to enable the 777X to maintain the same 213-ft. Code E span of the 777-300ER at taxiways and gates. The added foot means each folding tip section will be 12 ft. in length, adding 24 ft. to the overall span when fully extended. The decision to grow the span follows results from wind-tunnel tests at Boeing’s transonic wind-tunnel facility in Seattle and low-speed tests at the Qinetiq-owned 16.4 X 13.7-ft. low-speed wind tunnel in Farnborough, U.K.


  • Boeing has a proprietary plastic wing design will heavily improve Lift and Drag 
  • Light weight plastic wings will reduce 777X weight over the 777 line of aircraft
  • Airports are excitedly anticipating increased passenger flow through this program.
  • Airport will not need to change anything unlike landing the A380 which requires rebuilding terminals.

The over-all impact of the Boeing plastic wing on the 777X will be compliment by advanced engine performance. The goal of Boeing is to walk into a 787 cabin and fly it like the 777X version. Both will have similar, if not identical feel, only in a bigger model for the 777X. Not all Boeing technological tweaks are revealed at this time. Boeing has a detailed plan in each area of this aircraft. I would assume (fingers crossed) that all flight surfaces forward and aft are CRFP surfaces. Additionally, since Boeing is currently developing laminar flow surfaces on its bigger 787-9 and 787-10.  I would expect Boeing to go all in regarding the 777X9 and 777X8.

Whatever is in Boeing's flight bag of tricks, is on its shelves, they will come out and play with the 777X program. The 777-300ER in the base model line, and the 787-9 is that latest mid-sized plastic model. Lessons from the 777-330ER will make improvements on the metal side of the 777X. And lessons learned in plastic making from the 787 will be improved upon in the 777X plastic wings, where it will be manufactured on site in Everett, WA.

Since these are just a few possibilities I would expect many more behind closed doors surprises and a few more discoveries under its skin as it is assembled the first time. All trimming weight and increasing designed efficiencies are not yet exposed, will make this a truly remarkable airplane for the next 30 years.