The Boeing 777-300ER has been a long-haul staple in many airline fleets around the world. This is probably most evident with airlines such as Emirates, but also other large carriers like Cathay Pacific and Air France. Today, 17 years ago, this iconic aircraft took its first flight. This flight would kick-off a 1,600-hour flight-test program towards government certification.

Japanese carrier ANA took delivery of its first 777-300ER in 2004. Photo: Getty Images

The 777-300ER was the fourth 777 variant to come from Boeing. It followed the 777-200ER and 777-300, as well as the first 777: the 777-200, which first flew on June 12th, 1994.

17 years ago today

It was on February 24th, 2003 at 10:00 local time that the test aircraft took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The first flight lasted a little over three hours, landing at 13:02 at Seattle’s Boeing Field.

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“The Boeing 777 is an incredible flying machine. It’s no wonder pilots call it the ‘World’s Greatest Airplane’. Being at the controls of an airplane on its first flight is a rare and unique opportunity, and it always is exciting.” -Frank Santoni, Chief 777 Test Pilot

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According to Boeing’s press release on that day, the 777-300ER climbed to an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and reached an airspeed of Mach 0.50, or about 370 miles (600 kilometers) per hour. This was below typical conditions as the 777’s cruise altitude is 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and its cruise speed is Mach 0.84, about 557 miles (896 kilometers) per hour.

During the flight, test pilots tested some of the airplane’s systems and structures, with data being recorded and transmitted to a flight-test team at Boeing Field.

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Emirates has the largest fleet of 777-300ERs. Photo: Emirates

The workhorse of airline fleets around the world

Since being first delivered to launch customer Air France in 2004, the most recent numbers show that 819 777-300ERs have been delivered. Its largest customer has been Emirates airlines with an astounding 114 of the aircraft type delivered.

It seems like this aircraft has flown almost every key long-haul route imaginable including the iconic New York JFK to London Heathrow service, through to transpacific flights like Hong Kong to Vancouver. One of the longest routes flown by the aircraft is Etihad’s service between Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles International Airport.

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American Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to take delivery of the widebody twin-engine. The aircraft first joined the fleet in 2012. Photo: James Rowson via Wikimedia Commons

Boeing has had a somewhat steady stream of customers since 2004. It’s most recent customers include SWISS with its 2016 deliveries and Kuwait Airways taking its aircraft as recent as 2017. These aircraft will fill the long-haul, high-capacity needs of airlines until its successor arrives: The 777X.

Conclusion

With delivery anticipated to be in 2021, there is still some time before the 777X comes onto the scene. Even then, many ‘classic’ 777s in fleets all around the world still have a lot of life left in them, with many airlines having refurbished their cabins in recent years. This should be seen as a benefit since the rollout of the 777X will take some time.

For an aircraft that could be considered the one that sealed the fate for the Airbus A340, the 777-300ER has achieved a lot in the last 17 years. We are guessing that has probably served many of our readers on at least one long-haul flight.

Have you enjoyed flying on the 777-300ER? Share some of your experiences with us in the comments!

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