The Federal Aviation Administration has approved folding composite wingtips that will be installed on upcoming Boeing 777-X aircraft.
The design, which will be incorporated in Boeing's 777-8 and 777-9 models, will allow the aircraft to fit into standard-sized airport parking spaces. Thanks to these wingtips, the 777-X's wingspan can decrease from 235 feet to 212 when folded during ground operations. When fully extended, the wingtips maximize fuel efficiency.
The new wings are made from carbon-fiber composites that are stronger and lighter than the material Boeing uses in other wings. Multiple layers of redundancy, with a primary and secondary latch system, ensure that the wingtip is always extended in flight and only folds when commanded.
The Federal Aviation Administration set up standards for the 777X's wingtips. The agency was concerned that the wingtips could cause safety issues, so the FAA required Boeing to have several warning systems to make sure pilots won't attempt a takeoff before the wingtips are locked in the correct position. In addition, they also wanted assurances that there was no way the tips could fold in-flight and that the wingtips could handle winds of up to 75 miles per hour while on the ground.
Boeing and rival Airbus are competing over a potential market of several thousand aircraft for twin-engine, long-haul aircraft that seat around 350 to 410 passengers. Currently, Boeing is finishing design work on the 777-X program. Flight testing is scheduled for early next year.
So far, Boeing has logged 326 orders for the 777-X from eight customers: Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qatar Airways, ANA, an Unidentified Customer, and Singapore Airlines.