Boeing 777-9X. Photo: Boeing.
Boeing is scheduled to begin production on the re-engined version of the 777, the 777X, this year. Qatar Airways is the launch customer for the 777X, which has garnered 306 total orders and a $125 billion backlog for the new model for Boeing based on current list prices. The twin-aisle 777X has two variants, the 777-8 and 777-9 powered by GE Aviation’s GE9X engine.
In the June/July 2017 issue of Avionics, we spoke to Qatar Airways CTO Iain Lachlan, who provided insight on the new airliner’s avionics architecture and in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) capabilities.
As launch customer for the Boeing 777X, did Qatar Airways work with Boeing on choice of avionics and other systems and the open architecture format?
Qatar Airways was involved in the design of the 777X from the early stages; providing inputs on which systems should be changed or aligned with the B787. A number of avionics changes are now included in the design on the baseline B777X. Going forward, Qatar Airways will continue to work with Boeing on further potential developments; however, once the design freeze is implemented, changes will be limited, but our inputs will continue to be provided. In addition to aircraft design, we offered design ideas for other systems; particularly those affected by our specific environmental conditions.
Were there specific avionics Qatar wanted installed on its 777X?
Qatar Airways has played a part in ensuring systems like 787-type inertial reference systems, cockpit displays, common core system, and cargo smoke detection system will be transitioned onto the B777X. Qatar Airways has been actively involved in the WTT and Trade Study activities that Boeing is pursuing and has actively shaped the design of the airplane to the extent possible; this includes the installation of touch-screen cockpit displays and the Iridium SATCOM system.
Do you feel that this avionics package for the 777X advances the science of avionics for commercial airliners?
The avionics package is more of an evolution and integration of technologies available today on the B777 and B787 and not revolution, as many may think is possible. It is designed to be more flexible with greater potential for enhancements in the future. The unique design aspects on the avionics front would be the touch-screen cockpit displays and the Boeing philosophy change where they now have a portable electronic flight bag (EFB) solution as the baseline. The customer experience network is another new feature that has significant potential for future development.
What type of EFB technology can we expect to see on Qatar’s 777X?
The baseline offering from Boeing is a PED mount with wireless connectivity in the cockpit for a connected portable tablet EFB. The overall strategy for the EFB in the future is under study by Qatar Airways flight operations.
Has Qatar done a cost-benefit analysis on the types of avionics needed for the 777X? Is there a cost benefit to the avionics Qatar has chosen?
All selections are done by Qatar Airways thorough a cost benefit analysis considering our operational and maintenance requirements, present and future. We are not able to share the results or cost-saving expected.
What are the operational improvements gained picking specific avionics, such as improved fuel burn, reduced carbon emissions, etc.?
This is a competitively-sensitive topic, but overall the systems are more integrated on the B777X. This should result in weight savings due to lower LRU count and cabling; consequently leading to improved fuel burn.
How will the avionics compare to other Qatar airliners of similar size?
The avionics suite will be an evolution from the current B777s and B787s. New capabilities with the touch-screen displays and customer experience network will be the biggest operational changes, while the CCS will be the biggest change on the avionics front. The fact that this is a “connected” aircraft will also enable more streamlined maintenance activities like remote fault diagnostics, sending software to the aircraft and getting data from the airplane. This will be new for the B777, but does exist today on the B787. However, IT security is high on the agenda of all manufacturers and operators to prevent unapproved access, etc.
Could you share with us the in-flight entertainment capabilities Qatar’s 777X will have?
For competitive reasons, we are not able to share full details, but the Qatar Airways 777X will be equipped with higher capacity media servers to support 4K UHD video and HD audio content and also to provide passengers with a wider selection of entertainment options. A personalized and outstanding passenger experience shall be delivered through seamless integration of passenger mobile devices and also through seat back connectivity for web-based applications. High-power USB charging and AC power outlets shall also be available cabinwide. However with recent changes in aircraft security, this is an area where a great deal of ongoing review and development will continue to be done.