21st Century Jet: The Building of the 777 (part 1 of 5)
In the early 90's, Boeing decided to build a new airplane, the 777. They also decided to allow KCTS Television and Channel Four London to film the design, construction, and testing of the new airliner. This 5-hour documentary, first aired in 1996, is no longer shown on TV, and out of print on VHS, but you can now watch it on Google Videos.
The 777 is still the largest twin-engined airliner ever built. Its engines are the largest aircraft engines ever made. It was the first fly-by-wire airliner from Boeing, their first to be designed entirely on computers. The documentary covers all of this with plenty of airplane stuff, plenty of manufacturing stuff, and also a surprising amount of "people" stuff.
Boeing tried a new "Working Together" philosophy to improve teamwork internally, with sub-contractors, with regulatory authorities, and even with customers. As a result, the 777 was the first twin-engined plane certified to fly up to 180 minutes from the nearest airport at entry into service (rather than the usual 60 minutes), and was the first Boeing plane where the first one delivered was accepted by the customer the first time around.
covers the decision to build a new airplane, how they got United Airlines to be the launch customer, the computerized design process, the new "design-build teams" concept, and some footage of cold weather door tests. It also covers the design of the cupholders and toilet seats (yes, really).
shows a lot of the initial assembly of wings and fusealge, an internal discussion about whether or not to use aluminum-lithium alloy for some 777 parts, and a visit to a Japanese sub-contractor's new factory. Some of the logistics of getting parts to the assembly line are also included, such as bullet-proof rail cars to prevent skin panels from arriving with bullet holes in them. Don't miss the 130-foot tractor-trailer with a driver at each end.
In Part 3
, the 777 rolls on its own wheels for the first time. Extensive coverage is given to the design and testing of the new engines, including water, ice, and bird ingestion, and a "blade out" test where a fan blade is intentionally detached from a running engine to make sure the fragments will be contained. Also included in part 3, pressure testing of a completed fuselage, and the large airplane ground operations simulator (LAGOS)--a cockpit on a very long stick to test how best to manuever such a large plane around airports. Concludes with a high-speed taxi test where the 777 "almost" takes to the air.
begins with the first flight of the 777 and then focuses on the flight testing process and Boeing test pilot John Cashman. In this part, we see such things as intentionally dragging the tail of the aircraft along the runway, a "spray test" involving driving through deep puddles at high speeds, and various brake tests including "the big one" that destroys $750,000 worth of wheels and tires.
starts with a wing structure being tested to failure, United Airlines making an advertisement featuring the 777, the steps taken to certify the 777 for 180-minute ETOPS at entry into service, and an emergency escape systems test where 419 volunteers get out in less than 90 seconds. Final test flights are flown by United Airlines to prove they are competent to operate the 777 on commercial flights. We see the purchase and delivery of the first plane to United (including a very complicated conference call to conduct the transaction). The documentary ends with the inaugural commercial flight (which one passenger had mis-heard as "an all girl flight").