The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly told Boeing that the 777X long haul aircraft was not ready for the next step of certification due to safety concerns. The new passenger variant of Boeing’s popular 777 aircraft is likely to get the FAA’s approval only in late 2023 or even 2024. 

In a letter dated May 13, 2021, first seen and reported by the Seattle Times on June 27, 2021, the FAA warned Boeing that it may have to increase the number of Boeing 777X test flights and that the key certification “realistically” was two more years away. The letter signed by Ian Won, the manager of the local FAA office, alleged that the critical avionics system proposed for the Boeing 777X aircraft did not meet safety requirements. 

“The aircraft is not yet ready,” Won wrote. “The technical data required for type certification has not reached a point where it appears the aircraft type design is mature and can be expected to meet the applicable regulations.”

Boeing has been developing a new passenger variant of its popular Boeing 777 aircraft since 2013. The aircraft was scheduled to be operational in 2020. However, due to the scrutinized certification process following the latest manufacturing issues with the Boeing 737 MAX and Dreamliner, the 777X arrival to the commercial service has been delayed numerous times. 

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Unhappy customers and plans of downsizing 777X orders

The Boeing 777X has been beset with production delays and delivery deferrals, irritating some airline customers.

The model's largest customer, Emirates airline, which has 150 Boeing 777X aircraft on order, previously said it lacked “visibility” from Boeing regarding the Triple Seven X aircraft delivery timeline. 

“I would like more visibility when exactly we are going to receive these airplanes and what exactly they are going to be able to do with regards to their performance,” Emirates CEO Sir Tim Clark said speaking at the World Aviation Festival virtual event on April 21, 2021. 

Emirates was initially supposed to start taking the first Boeing 777X aircraft deliveries in 2020. However, that timeline was initially pushed back to 2022 and later to 2023. Recently, Clark revealed that it was unlikely Emirates was “going to get it before 2023 or probably 2024”.

“I think we will be having grown up conversations with the Boeing company sometime in the next few months,” Clark added. 

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The president of Emirates Sir Tim Clark said that he was seeking more visibility from Boeing on the delivery timeline of the Boeing 777X aircraft.
 

Earlier in 2021, Emirates indicated the possibility to replace some of its ordered 777Xs with the smaller Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The airline had not made the decision whether the folding wing aircraft would be swapped for more Boeing 787s or more Boeing 777-9s, according to Clark.

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Earlier in April 2021, the Hong Kong flag-carrier Cathay Pacific, Asia’s first 777X customer, reportedly said that it may be shrinking Boeing 777X aircraft order. Cathay Pacific would reportedly downsize its Boeing 777-9X aircraft order from 21 aircraft to between 10 and 15 airplanes. In a statement to AeroTime News, Cathay Pacific spokesperson noted that the airline was in “advanced negotiations” to defer its 21 Boeing 777X aircraft order without mentioning plans of downsizing it. 

“As mentioned previously, Cathay Pacific is in advanced negotiations with Boeing to reschedule its 21-aircraft 777-9 order to 2025 and beyond,” Cathay Pacific spokesperson wrote in a statement to AeroTime News on April 26, 2021. 

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The cash-strapped Cathay Pacific may shrink Boeing 777X aircraft order.
 

To date, there are a total of eight airline customers having ordered yet-to-be-certified Boeing 777X aircraft. The customers include Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY), and All Nippon Airways (ANA).