Folding Wing Tips Could Make Aircraft More Fuel Efficient — but Are They Safe?
In just a couple years, airport spotters could see something new taxiing to their gate: an airplane with its wings folded up.
Boeing is preparing to unleash its “folding wingtip” design around the world. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is concerned about what would happen to these wings once they’re in the sky.
In November, the FAA released a specific set of guidelines, conditions, and safety features that the 777X must meet in order to become certified. The agency is concerned about what would happen in the event of malfunction.
In order to receive FAA certification, Boeing must prove that the foldable wings will not bend during flight, that there is sufficient lighting on the plane, and that cabin crew have specific safety procedures tailored to the folding wings, among many other qualifications.
When they’re folded up, the wings are 213 feet across. But when they’re extended, the wings reach a 235-foot span. Boeing says the foldable wingtip makes the 777X “the most efficient twin jet ever developed in commercial history.”
The foldable wingtip was developed so that the 777X would be able to land and taxi at any airport gate where the 777 currently lands.
Earlier this month, Boeing said that it was still “on track” to make the 777X’s first flight in early 2019. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2020.
Boeing already has more than 300 orders for the 777X, including 150 from Emirates. Other international airlines like Lufhtansa, Etihad, and Cathay Pacific have also placed orders for the aircraft.