The Boeing 777X, that will be capable for flying nonstop from New York to Sydney and Sydney to London with 300 passengers, has been powered up as the superjet is being readied for an expected roll-out early next year.
The power-up process enables the company to test every system on the aircraft to ensure that when it is unveiled, it is fully functional.
Boeing is coy on announcing a roll-out date but industry sources say it is expected in mid-February.
Boeing is building two models of the 777X family: the 400-seat -9, which will be the first to roll out and the longer range -8, which can seat 350 passengers and has a range capability of more than 17,220 km.
It is this model that Qantas and Air New Zealand are evaluating with a decision expected early next year.
The driving force behind the 777X is Emirates President Sir Tim Clark, whose airline is the lead buyer with an order for 150.
Sir Tim describes the 777X as “an absolute peach”.
Key to his enthusiasm is the aircraft’s economics and greater space — it is 20 percent more efficient per seat than the industry’s long-time benchmark the 777-300ER and its cabin is wider with bigger windows.
The Boeing 777X combines the best features of the current 777 with a longer fuselage, new engine and the composite wing design from the Boeing 787.
Other airlines that have ordered the 777X are Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and All Nippon Airlines.
Qantas’s competition, called “Project Sunrise” also includes the Airbus A350 and the airline is demanding Sydney to London non-stop capability with 300 passengers.
Both Airbus and Boeing say they can meet the airline’s demands or close to it.
Qantas plans to add underfloor bunks to the winner of its competition because on ultra-long-haul flights the aircraft will carry virtually no cargo, just passenger’s bags.
Air New Zealand is going to accelerate the redesign of its interior offering at its Hangar 22 seating project after it decides on either the Boeing 777X or A350 in April.
Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon told AirlineRatings.com at the inaugural of the airline’s first service to Chicago last week that the airline had been bringing customers through to experience mock-up cabin spaces in an attempt to learn their thinking about space, storage, and privacy.
“We’ve been running customers through a number of mock-ups that at this stage are quite primitive and quite conceptual but are giving them a feel about what they want to play back to us around that,” he said