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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Boeing gets go-ahead for futuristic folding wings on new jetliners

Largest ever created by the Chicago-based plane maker are taking shape as Boeing builds the first of its 777X jetliners

A Boeing 777. The US plane maker will soon launch versions with folding wing tips. Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters
A Boeing 777. The US plane maker will soon launch versions with folding wing tips. Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters

Boeing won approval from the US regulator Federal Aviation Administration for the company's new foldable wingtips for its latest 777 jets.

The design, which will be incorporated in the world's largest commercial plane maker's Model 777-8 and 777-9 models, would allow the bigger wings to fit into the standard-sized airport parking space, according to Reuters.

The feature will help reduce the wingspan to 212 feet from 235 feet when folded during ground operations.

Twin-engine, long-haul aircraft seating around 350 to 410 passengers is seen as the industry's next big battle with both Boeing and rival Airbus competing for a potential market of several thousand.

The news of the FDA approval came days after the US won a long-running trade case challenging subsidies that European Union nations had provided Airbus to develop jetliners, costing Boeing sales.

The World Trade Organisation final ruling paves the way for US President Donald Trump to impose retaliatory sanctions. An appellate panel for the international trade body affirmed a 2016 ruling that the EU had failed to eliminate unfair funding for two Airbus models.

“Today’s final ruling sends a clear message: disregard for the rules and illegal subsidies are not tolerated. The commercial success of products and services should be driven by their merits and not by market-distorting actions,” Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg earlier this month.

Later this year, the WTO is expected to issue a final ruling in a separate case in which the EU challenged billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Boeing.

Meanwhile the new wings, the largest ever created by the Chicago-based plane maker, are taking shape as Boeing builds the first of its 777X jetliners in a factory north of Seattle, Bloomberg said. They will be the most distinctive-feature for the hulking jets, the first twin-engine models built to haul more than 400 travellers.

Once the new planes touch down, the tips of the wings will rotate until they’re pointed skyward, which will make it the only commercial jet in widespread use with such a hinged design. A set of locking mechanisms will make it impossible for them to retract while airborne, according to the company.

Because commercial aircraft design standards didn’t envision a foldable wingspan, US regulators had to craft them from scratch. Those “special conditions” were approved Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to federal documents.

The Boeing plane’s chief project engineer, Terry Beezhold, called it “this beautiful wing”. “This airplane actually will be the most efficient twin-jet ever developed in commercial history,” Mr Beezhold said.

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Instead of aluminium, Boeing will make the new wings out of carbon-fibre composites, which are stronger and lighter than the metal they replace.

But the wing also created a new problem: The current 777s barely fit into the standard airport gate for long-range, widebody aircraft. The wider wing on the new 777-8 and 777-9 planes would require airports to build new gates to accommodate the plane’s increased size.

“For that reason, we developed the folding wingtip, so that in flight we can enjoy this very long, efficient span, but it will be able to operate at any airport, any gate, that today’s 777 can service,” Mr Beezhold said.