Forget the "superjumbos" for a while. The "minijumbos" will be the heavy airliner manufacturer's bread and butter in the years to come. Here's an article concerning what is, in my opinion, the best of the best of our current airliners.
Boeing 777 is flying a mile high
Five years after its debut, United Airlines is putting jets to good use in Denver
By Richard Williamson
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
When the first Boeing 777 arrived five years ago, it was built to take off in the challenging atmosphere of mile-high Denver fully loaded and bound for Hawaii on a hot summer day.
United Airlines, the launch customer for the wide-body jet, demanded that kind of performance before it would agree to buy the plane, Boeing spokesman Sean Griffin said.
While United is not actually using the jet on that 3,000-mile route, the world's largest airline has made extensive use of its 41 Boeing 777s in Denver.
"It's been extremely popular with our customers," said United spokesman Joe Hopkins. "For several years, we were the only U.S. carrier to have them in our fleet."
Hard-pressed by Europe's Airbus Industrie in the market for single-aisle, narrow-bodied planes, Boeing will tout the supremacy of the 777 on the plane's five-year anniversary next week.
No competing Airbus, Griffin says, can fly the Denver-to-Honolulu route fully loaded when temperatures top 68 degrees in Denver.
Because of Denver's altitude, large jets are unable to take off on hot days if they are fully loaded with passengers, cargo and fuel for a transoceanic journey.
When British Airways began flying from Denver to London in 1998, the airline bought a 777 to handle the route.
With extended-range engines from General Electric, the 777 can fly from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany, Griffin says. That range of more than 5,000 miles from Denver is a bone of contention between the city of Denver and United.
United says it does not have an airplane that will fly from Denver to Frankfurt on a hot day. Denver Mayor Wellington Webb suggests takeoffs in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler. But United responds that there are other issues to consider, such as practical connecting flights in Denver and Frankfurt.
At the least, United is considering seasonal flights between the two cities, Regional Vice President Roger Gibson said.
The issue could become moot by 2003, when Boeing launches a 777 that will be able to fly 10,000 miles.
Meanwhile, the 777 has won rave reviews from pilots, passengers, mechanics and ground crews. Gordon McKinzie, manager of new-aircraft development for United, called the 777 "the current benchmark against which all other commercial transports are measured" in a five-year report card for Boeing.
With the widest seats in the industry, the 777 is the most requested airplane by travelers, McKinzie wrote.
Contact Richard Williamson at (303) 892-5269, or williamson@RockyMountainNews.com.