Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

On June 12, 1994, the largest twin-engine plane in operation, the Boeing 777 jumbo jet, ascended on its maiden flight, confirming a new era in airplane design and construction. The three-hour, forty-eight-minute flight proved that Boeing had successfully created a more affordable, customer-oriented aircraft.

Summary of Event

In 1986, Boeing foresaw a marketing opportunity in creating a new 700 series plane that would replace fleets of aging wide-body commercial aircraft. Preliminary research indicated that a large tri- or twin-engine airplane that fell between Boeing’s 767 and 747 series in size, carrying 305-440 passengers, would best suit customer demand. Initial production proposals considered stretching and revamping the 767, but in October, 1988, Boeing’s corporate board recommended the creation of an entirely new plane. Airline industry Boeing 777[Boeing seven seventy seven] Wide-body jets[Wide body jets] United Air Lines [kw]Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies (June 12, 1994) Airline industry Boeing 777[Boeing seven seventy seven] Wide-body jets[Wide body jets] United Air Lines [g]North America;June 12, 1994: Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies[08910] [g]United States;June 12, 1994: Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies[08910] [c]Spaceflight and aviation;June 12, 1994: Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies[08910] [c]Engineering;June 12, 1994: Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies[08910] [c]Science and technology;June 12, 1994: Boeing’s 777 Takes to the Skies[08910] Albrecht, Richard R. Condit, Phil M. Guyette, James M. Mulally, Alan Roger Wolf, Stephen M.

Starting anew allowed Boeing the opportunity to elicit recommendations directly from its customers, the airlines. In January, 1990, eight airlines—All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and United—the “Gang of Eight,” met for the first session of their project, called Working Together. Meetings, discussions, and surveys soon proved that the airlines desired a large, long-range, wide-body, technologically advanced aircraft that was more economical to operate and maintain.

In October, 1990, James M. Guyette, executive vice president of operations at United Air Lines, led a seventy-hour meeting that ended in the airline’s selection of the new Boeing 777, with its Pratt & Whitney engine, as its next aircraft purchase. After the meeting, Guyette hand-drafted a one-page objectives agreement between United and Boeing that launched a new phase in aircraft history. The pact, signed by Boeing’s executive vice presidents Phil M. Condit and Richard R. Albrecht, was an agreement to work together to create a Boeing 777 that surpassed previous goals. This accord gave United much greater input during the planning and designing stages of the aircraft. In return, Stephen M. Wolf, chairman of United Air Lines, Incorporated, promised Boeing an order for thirty-four aircraft and an option for thirty-four more.

In April, 1991, Boeing signed another liaison agreement, this time with IBM and Dassault Systèmes, a French software company. This simple document created a working relationship that allowed the Boeing 777 to become the first jetliner to be totally digitally designed with three-dimensional graphics known as CATIA (Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application). Working collectively, these three companies created a system that interconnected thousands of computers and allowed designers, developers, engineers, and manufacturers across the world ready access to important tools and information. This second “working together” agreement was the catalyst that permitted the Boeing 777’s project plans to be completed without any paper drawings. Prototypes were designed and assembled online, creating the world’s first virtually drafted commercial jetliner.

With networking capabilities in place, the designing and building teams assigned to the project—under the direction of Alan Roger Mulally—could move forward with their various responsibilities and work jointly to assure that the new aircraft would successfully meet their objectives. Among the many goals to be achieved were: meeting long-range flying requirements, mechanical soundness and dependability, more aerodynamic wings, pleasant and flexible cabin design, appropriate cargo space, and state-of-the-art flying technology. The objectives required the development of new, advanced materials, including titanium alloy and stronger resins critical in reducing weight load while creating a stronger, less corrosive airplane.

New systems and software needed to be created to support two-person operation of this large commercial airliner. Customer demand also necessitated the ability to install jet engines from all three major engine manufacturers: Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric. From across the globe, teams met and worked online to design new parts, enhance existing components from the Boeing 767, and test systems. Customer-training teams worked simultaneously to create effective training manuals and software tools. Efficiency and productivity required online creation to be followed by real-world testing of components in a new, highly refined parts testing lab. Thousands of people from dozens of industries worked to create a new aircraft that not only met all flying requirements on delivery but did so on time.

On June 12, 1994, the initial Boeing 777 left the runway in Everett, Washington, on the first of more than three hundred test flights. Over the next twenty-two months, eight additional test planes, four more with Pratt & Whitney engines for United Air Lines, two with Rolls-Royce engines for Cathay Pacific, and two with General Electric engines for British Airways, joined the test program and logged a total of nearly seven thousand flight hours. Testing was conducted around the world to provide real-life evaluations in various hot, cold, and windy weather scenarios.

On May 15, 1995, after having received certification from both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), Boeing delivered United Air Lines’ first Boeing 777. Fifteen days later, the FAA gave unprecedented 180-minute, extended-range twin-engine operations (ETOPS) certification to the Boeing 777’s with Pratt & Whitney engines. In October, 1996, the Rolls-Royce and General Electric engines were also granted ETOPS status. This allowed the plane to be flown up to three hours away from a qualified landing airport. Granting ETOPS certification to an aircraft that had just been brought into service was exceptional; two-engine planes typically required two years of commercial use before being granted this status. The Boeing 777 was permitted to skip this testing process and fly almost anywhere in the world.

On June 7, 1995, the Boeing 777 flew its first commercial flight for United Air Lines. The aircraft, with a Pratt & Whitney engine, left London Heathrow Airport for Dulles International Airport, near Washington, D.C. Years of teamwork, effort, and planning had resulted in the Boeing 777’s first revenue-generating flight.


The Boeing 777 was the largest twin-engine aircraft ever built. The designers used state-of-the-art computer systems to create the first computer-designed commercial aircraft. This innovative technology connected thousands of aircraft developers in cyberspace in a timely fashion, and proved to be a more cost-effective method of creating and assembling mock-ups. Global communication systems, strong customer relations, effective design and building teams, advanced resources, digital design, and timely compliance testing were the major dynamics that made the Boeing 777 a remarkable feat of ingenuity and teamwork.

The Boeing 777 received several prestigious awards. On February 15, 1996, the National Aeronautic Association awarded Boeing the Robert J. Collier Trophy for “designing, manufacturing, and placing into service the world’s most technologically advanced airline transport.” The aircraft also received the Industrial Design Excellence Award in 1992 and 1993 and the 1996 Trophy for Current Achievement from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. By the early years of the twenty-first century, six Boeing 777 models were in use, and the technology and materials developed in the race to design the Boeing 777 were being used effectively by numerous other industries. Airline industry Boeing 777[Boeing seven seventy seven] Wide-body jets[Wide body jets] United Air Lines

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lynn, Matthew. Birds of Prey: Boeing vs. Airbus, a Battle for the Skies. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1997. Reviews the operations and product-idea processes of Boeing and Airbus.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McKinzie, Gordon A. “How United and Boeing Worked Together to Design and Build the 777 Airplane.” National Productivity Review 16 (Winter, 1996): 7-14. Explains United Air Lines’ and Boeing’s process in setting up the “work together” design team that was instrumental in creating the Boeing 777.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Norris, Guy, and Mark Wagner. Boeing 777: The Technical Marvel. Osceola, Wis.: MBI, 2001. Illustrated guide to the history and production of the Boeing 777.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Petroski, Henry. “The Boeing 777.” American Scientist 83 (November/December, 1995): 519-522. Discusses the engineering feats inherent in the design of the Boeing 777.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sabbagh, Karl. Twenty-First Century Jet: The Making and Marketing of the Boeing 777. New York: Scribner, 1996. Details the creation process in the design of the Boeing 777.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sharma, K. J., and B. Bowonder. “The Making of Boeing 777: A Case Study in Concurrent Engineering.” International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management 6, nos. 3-4 (2004): 254-264. Outlines the agreements and coordination processes that went into the creation of a new jet.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Brian. “The Boeing 777: The Development of the Boeing 777 Was Made Possible by the Development of Breakthrough Materials That Allowed Reductions in Structural Weight While Maintaining Affordability.” Advanced Materials and Processes 161 (September, 2003): 41-45. Highlights the new materials that made the Boeing 777 possible.

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Categories: History