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Almost 3 years ago I posted this question, Why didn't the A330neo and A320neo share the cockpit of the A350?, and short answers were:

"it's what the market wanted"

"there is a huge disadvantage to drastically changing the cockpit when going from an A320 to the A320 NEO or from a B737-300 to the B737-700, or 737 NG to 737 Max, and that has to do with the existing fleets."

Ok, I surely understood those ones, even if I specifically cited examples like complete transformations of B737 flight desk in 40 years history (explained as well in the second answer, thanks to sort of "compatibility mode" for old pilots).

I recently discover that new B777x has a flight deck almost equal to B787 (here a video) and not to previous generation B777 so argumentations explained so well in past answers are not suitable for this model.

Generally it seems that Boeing is "more courageous" in their updates than Airbus that seems more traditional (I am an Airbus fan but in this case, this seems the truth).

Anybody knows why B777X is so different from the original model, considering that efficiency seems increased of about 15%, something like difference between A330 and A330neo, or A320 and A320neo that share more things with original models?

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  • $\begingroup$ A320 entered service in 1988 with first flight in 1987, almost 27 years before first flight of A320neo but... new models share almost the same cockpit... $\endgroup$ – Luca Detomi Jan 30 at 11:17
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The reality is that the 777X is not all that different from the 777 when considering cockpit procedures or 'user interface'. What is different is the hardware platform(s) that are used.

I worked for a supplier to Boeing for the 787. The stated goals for the 787 from Boeing were fairly straightforward. The design shall require a maximum of 5 days transition training for 777 pilot with a goal of 1 day. On the support side, there was a push to greatly reduce maintenance and upgrade costs. These are driven by the hardware and system architecture.

So the big change with the 787 was moving from the Honeywell AIMS and A629 based network to the Collins/GE A651 and A653 based Common Core System and A664 based network. The result of that platform change is why the flight decks look so different and that's what you see in the videos.

I can say with authority that in the 787 design our overriding directive was to make it look and behave like the 777. While a keyboard and a window on a widescreen display looks different from a control and display unit (CDU), the key functions and display behave the same.

So now with the 777X, the hardware is an evolution of what's in the 787. It uses the same basic open architecture and also follows the tenet of minimal changes that will require crew training.

So ultimately, the 777X is operationally similar to both the 777 and 787 while the hardware and software infrastructure follows the 787.

The impact of training is significant. As explained to me by a United rep, when one senior captain retires it generates 10 to 15 training requirements as crews move up in the system. Every day of training costs them a lot of money.

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    $\begingroup$ I've always wondered why the 787's MFD was like a PC flight sim's version of a CDU, and not a new interface with tabs like the A350, the latter makes sense for the different input method. Your answer addresses that ;) $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Jan 30 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ this seems to come from a pretty reliable source. Thanks!! $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jan 30 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting but my doubts, in a such way, remains... I understood your reasonable argomentations for Boeing but why this should not be true also for Airbus with their A320/A330neos? Same considerations made about different interface for almost same operability should apply also to Airbus models in that way for a company could be easier to transition a crew from an A350 to an A330neo and viceversa, like for Boeing from B787 and B777x. In other words, what are differences that push Boeing in this direction and Airbus in the opposite? $\endgroup$ – Luca Detomi Jan 31 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ That would be a new question, but here's one possible thought: Both OEMs have the same underlying issue. Commonality across the fleet is good. Both pilots and maintainers like commonality as it simplifies their lives. The down side is that at some point due to technology or market forces something has to change and as soon as you introduce change, you're no longer common. How they manage that change depends on the culture and priorities of the business. Boeing and Airbus are two vastly different companies so there's no reason to expect them to manage the issue in a similar manner. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Jan 31 at 13:27
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Not quite sure this is the actual reason, but you have to consider why they keep things the same (or not). There are two main reasons I can see:

  • Pilots type certification. A pilot certified on a given "type" can fly any plane of that type, with (sometimes) just a little bit of additional training to cover the (supposedly) few differences between various aircraft of the same type. If a new aircraft is not the same "type", then pilots need a lot more training to be certified on that new aircraft. This takes time and money.

    This is actually one of the root causes of the 737 Max debacle: Boeing wanted the new aircraft to be the same "type" as the previous models (which were the same as the previous one, and the one before), because airlines wanted that as well. So they tried to make the 737 Max behave like the previous 737s even though, given the positions of the engines, it didn't really, which brought them to introduce the MCAS system, which itself made things even more different.

  • Parts commonality. Parts are replaced on aircraft every single day. Having a stock of parts (and associated procedures) that can be used for any plane of the same type is a huge plus. No need to start stocking spares for different types all over the place.

    Of course there WILL be parts that change (otherwise it would be the same aircraft!), but the more flight-essential components are common, the better.

So when you have an aircraft with several thousand airframes already in the market, with all the pilots trained on that aircraft, all the spares for that aircraft, there is a strong incentive to keep the same type. When you introduce a brand new aircraft that is substantially different, airlines will have to train pilots and start stocking parts for that new aircraft.

This is one of the reasons new entrants have a hard time picking up pace.

Now, back to the 777X. So it would seem obvious that being compatible with the 777 would be a huge boost. But there are just over 1600 aircraft of that type delivered (with a few hundred more still in the order book). This is far less than the nearly 5000 of the 737-800 alone, over 10000 of the many 737 variants, or the over 9000 A320s. Also, 777s fly to a lot less destinations (they're used mostly for large-capacity long-haul), so the number of places where you need spare parts is reduced. So the incentive is not as strong.

Factor in the fact that there are nearly a thousand 787s delivered, and over 500 more on order, and you see that having things in common with the 787 rather than the 777 may not be not such a bad idea.

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    $\begingroup$ I fully agree, especially considering that the 777 and 787 share a type rating (at least in Europe). $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Jan 30 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer but same considerations should be made also by Airbus for their A330neo (that for orders numbers is more comparable to 777 than A320) but instead in that case they prefer to remain "classic". Just courious about different reasond by two manufacturers in almost same conditions $\endgroup$ – Luca Detomi Jan 30 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ @LucaDetomi an A330NEO is more likely to replace an A330CEO (and same for the A320CEO/NEO) in a fleet than it is to operate alongside a A350XWB with the same crew operating across both aircraft, so it makes more sense to keep the A320/A330 cockpits familiar to the crews that will be flying them than update them just to bring it in line with another product. Conversely, the 787 and 777X are complementary models (with the 787 sitting far enough below the 777X that they dont conflict) and many fleets are intending to use the same pilot pool for both aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Moo Jan 30 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ @LucaDetomi this wont have been an off-the-cuff decision, this will have been a decision made after countless meetings, studies, conversations with customers and study groups etc etc etc. Airbus didn't just go "lets save some money here and not be courageous in updating our cockpits..." $\endgroup$ – Moo Jan 30 at 22:56

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