Juggling the 737 MAX crisis and 777X engine delays, Boeing has announced that development of the 777-8 has been suspended

First reported by The Air Current and then Reuters, the decision comes as the company focuses resources on the troubled 737 MAX and 777-9 test campaign.

It also comes as Boeing recently announced the maiden flight of the largest 777X member, the 777-9, would not occur this year.

Boeing Suspends Development of the 777-8

A review of the program has determined that development of the smaller 777-8 is not yet required, based on market and internal requirements.

No details have been provided regarding how long the development would be suspended for, however a Boeing spokesperson did provide us with this statement:

We reviewed our development program schedule and the needs of our current 777X customers and decided to adjust the schedule. The adjustment reduces risk in our development program, ensuring a more seamless transition to the 777-8.”

Boeing advertises the 777-8 as the smallest and longest-range variant of the highly-anticipated 777X family.

With a maximum takeoff weight of 351 tonnes, the aircraft is capable of carrying 384 passengers, in a two class configuration, up to 6,690NM (16,090km).

Thanks to its enormous and incredibly efficient General Electric GE9X engines, and state-of-the-art wing design, the aircraft offers airlines with excellent range and hauling capability.

Boeing Suspends Development of the 777-8
GE9X Installation on the 777-9

Despite these great figures, the 777-8 has only booked 53 orders from Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways.

This proves to be quite the challenge, with Emirates and Etihad in talks to adjust their 777X order and Qatar Airways showing interest in a long range A350-1000.

The big news comes from Australia, where Qantas has positioned the Boeing 777-8 against proposed “Ultra Long Range” variants of the A350-1000.

Aiming to fly non-stop from the east coast of Australia to Europe and America, Qantas has asked Airbus and Boeing for their final offer and is now reviewing the products.

The winning manufacturer is set to be announced at the end of this calendar year.

Although a shock to hear that the development of the 777-8 has been suspended, the Boeing spokesperson also added the following:

“We continue to engage with our current and potential customers on how we can meet their fleet needs. This includes our valued customer Qantas. We remain committed to the 777-8, which will be the most flexible commercial jet in the world and offer our customers optimal range and payload.”

Questions still loom however; Qantas wants a plane that can fly 21 hours non-stop by 2022, with commercial flights launching in 2023.

After undergoing a certification campaign, the 777-8 was originally meant to be delivered in 2022. Now suspended and the program itself delayed, due to engine issues, what will Airbus have to compete for Qantas?

A source in contact with Flight Global says Boeing is still in the game with Qantas, thanks to a “compelling option” intended to compensate for timing issues.

Airbus declined to comment on the situation, but has previously touted the A350 as the “perfect solution” for Qantas’s long-haul dream.

During my stay in Toulouse, for the 2019 Airbus Innovation Days, plenty of official and unofficial discussions were held about a range bumped A350.

Although lips are sealed, Qantas, British Airways and Qatar Airways have all expressed interest in the rumored A350-1000ULR, which Alex Macheras from Aviation Analyst says is just around the corner.

What’s your take on this announcement? Airbus’ win or sneaky deal on its way?

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