Popular Boeing 777 Has Solid Safety Record

Until Malaysia Airlines Accident, 777 Had Only One Fatal Crash

The cockpit of a Boeing 777

By Paul Riegler on 8 March 2014
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The presumed crash of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 in the South China Sea between southernmost Vietnam and northern Malaysia involved an aircraft with an exemplary safety record.

Until the crash of an Asiana Airlines 777 in 2013, the 777’s record was virtually unblemished.  Indeed, it was part of a small group of long-range aircraft from the world’s two major aviation manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, to never have had a fatal accident.

The only major incident involving a 777 prior to the Asiana crash took place in January 2008, when a British Airways 777 landed short of the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.  There were no injuries, and the investigation found that ice in the fuel lines had blocked fuel from getting to the plane’s engines. Boeing subsequently made changes to the plane’s fuel systems.

The Malaysia aircraft was involved in an accident while taxiing on a runway at Shanghai-Pudong International Airport in August 2012.  According to the report of the accident, the aircraft “contacted the tail of a China Eastern Airlines A340 plane.”  No one was injured, but the tip of the 777’s wing was broken off.

Boeing said in a statement that it offers “its deepest concern to the families of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.”  It also said it is assembling a team to provide technical assistance to investigating authorities.

The incident occurred the same week that Boeing announced that it was delaying deliveries of new 787 Dreamliner aircraft due to hairline cracks in the wings, and follows the successful launch, with a record $100 billion in orders, of a new more fuel-efficient version of the 777 at the Dubai Air Show.  The new plane will be 12% more fuel efficient than the competition according to Boeing.

Boeing has delivered 1,178 777s since the aircraft went into service in 1995.  The plane, depending on the model, can carry between 300 and 380 passengers depending on the airline’s cabin configuration.  The model flown by Malaysia was the same flown by Asiana, a 777-200ER.  According to Boeing, 422 of these models, an extended-range model that features additional fuel capacity, higher-thrust engines, and has an increased maximum takeoff weight compared to the 777-200, were sold and delivered, and 418 remain in service today.

The 777-200ER broke the Great Circle Distance Without Landing record by covering 12,455.34 statute miles (20,044.20 kilometers).  It also set the Speed Around the World, Eastbound record by traveling the Seattle-Kuala Lumpur-Seattle route at an average speed of 553 mph (889 km/h).

More importantly, the 777 also holds the record for the longest-ever ETOPS-related emergency flight diversion, 177 minutes operating on one engine, on a 2003 United Airlines flight carrying 255 passengers over the Pacific.

Its range and power has made the 777 a favorite of airlines to connect the U.S. with Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.  Current operators of the jet include Emirates with 127 777s, United Airlines, with 74, Air France with 64, Singapore with 56, American with 55, All Nippon Airways with 54, British Airways with 53, Cathay Pacific with 49, Japan Airlines with 46, and Delta with 18.


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