After the B747 was retired in 2020, the two largest aircraft that Boeing currently produces are the B777 and the B787 Dreamliner. You’d be forgiven for mistaking one for the other at a distance.
After all, these two planes have a lot in common, they are both twin-engine, dual-aisle, widebody jetliners, designed for medium to long-range flights.
From a pilot’s perspective, both aircraft serve very different purposes and have their place in the sky. Size and performance aren’t the only things that matter when it comes to jetliners. The type of routes they fly, aerodrome sizes, and occupancy should all be considered for this comparison.
After all, manufacturers design planes according to the demands of airlines, and both these have been designed for different operations, although there is some overlap.
To provide a fair comparison, we will have to compare the upcoming generation of the B777 with the B787, because of the age gap between the two.
But if they are so similar and serve the same purpose, why does Boeing manufacture both of them? Why do airlines operate both these planes in the same fleet? Let’s find out which wide-body wins in this Boeing 777 vs 787 comparison guide!
What Are the Main Differences Between the Boeing 777 vs 787?
The B777 and B787 both have plenty of traits that overlap, but that isn’t to say that they are interchangeable in function.
Each plane has something it can do that the other simply cannot, which is why many operators, like Qatar Airlines, have both planes in their fleet. The following are the main differences between the two aircraft.
At a glance, these two planes seem to be the same size, but upon closer inspection, it quickly becomes apparent that it isn’t true.
The Boeing 777-9 is currently the largest aircraft that Boeing has to offer. The Boeing 777-9 is 251 ft 9 in (76.52 m) long, making it the longest aircraft in the world.
The largest variant of the B787-10 is only 225 ft 1 in (68.3 m) long. Length is not the only dimension in which the B787 falls short. The B777 is larger than the B787 in every dimension possible.
The B777 model is the larger of the two aircraft and has a higher occupancy than the B787 Dreamliner. The largest variant of the B777 holds 426 in a two-class configuration, while the equivalent B787 occupies 330 passengers in the same configuration.
The engines on the B777 are by design larger than those on the B787. So they produce more thrust, however, the current generation of the B777 isn’t fuel-efficient when compared to the B787.
The GE9X engines on the next generation of B777s should improve fuel efficiency, but the smaller and lighter B787 Dreamliner will continue to burn less fuel.
The most powerful variant of the third-generation B777s produces 110,000 lbf (489 kN). The B787-10 is the most powerful variant of the Dreamliner and produces 78,000 lbf (347 kN).
The B777 seems to be more capable than the B787 Dreamliner in every way possible when you look at the specification sheet. However, both aircraft are designed for different uses, so when you try to use a B777 for the operations of a B787, the costs increase greatly, making the use of the aircraft unviable.
The prices of the planes are far apart, because of the size and performance differences between the two planes. The bigger and high-capacity B777X models cost $410.2 million and $442.2 million, for the B777-8 and B777-9 models, respectively.
The cheapest B787 Dreamliner model costs nearly $200 million more than the smallest third-generation B777. It can be argued that the mid-size B787-9’s price of $292.5 million is a more accurate comparison to the B777-8, in which case the price difference shrinks to $118 million.
The biggest model of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the B787-10, which has a list price of $338.4 million, which is $104 million cheaper than the equivalent B777-9.
Previously, the bigger and higher capacity B777 is designed to fly passengers to major airports after which they take different flights to their destinations. The plane still conducts this sort of operation, however, with the move to a point-to-point model, it now flies high-capacity non-stop routes around the world.
The B787 on the other hand was designed purely based on the point-to-point model and flies nonstop between less popular destinations that need an aircraft with a large enough range but a reduced passenger capacity.
We will use the largest and most powerful variants of the two planes to get the most accurate comparison.
|Fuselage Length||225 ft 1 in (68.30 m)||251 ft 9 in (76.72 m)|
|Fuselage Height||19 ft 4 in (5.94 m)||N/A|
|Tail Height||55 ft 10 in (17.02 m)||64 ft 1 in (19.53 m)|
|Wingspan||197 ft 3 in (60.1 m)||235 ft 5 in (72.8 m)|
|Wing Area||4,058 ft² (377 m²)||5,562 ft² (516.70 m²)|
|Maximum Take-Off Weight (Max)||560,000 lbs (254,011 kg)||775,000 lbs (351,534 kg)|
|Maximum Landing Weight (Max)||445,000 lbs (202,000 kg)||587,000 lbs (266,000 kg)|
|Maximum Zero Fuel||425,000 lbs (193,000 kg)||N/A|
|Operating Empty Weight||298,700 lbs (135,500 kg)||775,000 lbs (180,000 kg)|
|Range||6,345 nm (11,750 km)||7,285 nm (13,500 km)|
|Cruise Mach Number||Mach 0.85||Mach 0.84|
|Maximum Operating Mach Number @ 35,000 ft (10,700 m)||Mach 0.92||Mach 0.89|
|Maximum Operating Speed (Vmo) @ 35,000 ft (10,700 m)||515 kts (593 mph, 954 kmph)||512 kts (590 mph, 950 kmph)|
|Maximum Fuel Capacity (Volume)||36,384 US Gal (126,372 l)||52,300 US Gal (237,761 l)|
|Takeoff Distance (SL, ISA, MTOW)||9,300 ft (2,800 m)||N/A|
|Service Ceiling||43,100 ft (13,137 m)|
|Engine Takeoff Thrust||78,000 lbf (347 kN)||N/A|
|Continuous Thrust||76,000 lbf (340 kN)||110,000 lbf (489 kN)|
|Wake Turbulence Category||H||H|
Head to Head Analysis
So far, it seems that the B777 has the B787 outclassed and outmatched in every category, except for the price. So why even bother doing this comparison? As we mentioned earlier these aircraft are designed with similar, but different purposes.
After retiring the B747, the B777 became Boeing’s flagship high-capacity widebody carrier. The twin was previously unable to replace the B747 because of the limited ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards).
However, during testing for the next generation of Boeing 777, the B777-300ER set a record for the longest ETOPS time, by flying with one engine inoperative for 330 minutes or 5 and a half hours.
The B747 was designed when the hub-and-spoke model in aviation was in use. The model had high-capacity aircraft fly to a major airport (hub) and smaller aircraft ferry passengers to their actual destinations.
However, the aviation industry has since moved to a point-to-point model to reduce congestion at airports and reduce the overall number of flights.
The B787 is a direct result of the point-to-point philosophy. The B787 flies what the industry calls thin and long routes. These are flights that can’t fill larger planes like the B777 but are farther than what aircraft like the B737 MAX 9 can fly.
This is where the B787 comes in, this aircraft has the range to complete these trips with ease and has enough seats to fill the aircraft up to capacity on these flights reducing the overall cost per seat and maximizing profits.
Some examples of thin long routes that can be operated by the B787 are routes direct flights from India to Europe and China to Australia.
While a B777 can be used to operate these flights, a large number of seats will be left vacant, plus the more powerful and heavier aircraft will burn more fuel during the length of the trip than a B787 carrying the same number of occupants would.
This is the reason that both these aircraft exist, even though there seems to be so much overlap in their capabilities. Operating efficiency is the main and most important difference.
Frequently Asked Questions – Boeing 777 vs 787
Question: Why were Twin-Engine Aircraft Limited by ETOPS?
Answer: Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards dictate how far an aircraft can fly away from land to land should an engine fail. Another informal way to remember the acronym is “Engines Turn or Passengers Swim”.
When global passenger flights first started the only aircraft flying across the ocean was the Boeing 747, this was followed by the quad-engines Airbus A340. However, twin-engine aircraft were always limited by the fact that an engine failure would put the aircraft in a compromising position unable to land.
ETOPS was designed to gauge how long an aircraft can effectively fly with one-engine inoperative. The certification was given in minutes and twin-engine aircraft had to stay close to land. However, aircraft can operate for hours with only a single engine, and can effectively fly across the ocean with an engine failure.
Question: Why does the Boeing 777X have Folding Wingtips?
Answer: The new Boeing 777X models have newly designed composite wings that are thinner, longer, and more aerodynamically efficient than those of the preceding generation. These new wings also have an interesting new feature: folding wingtips.
These folding wingtips have one function, to reduce the wingspan of the B777X. Why? Because the unfolded wingspan of the aircraft would make it too wide to land at category E airports, which would severely limit the usability of the aircraft.
So the simple solution was to have the wings shortened after landing to reduce the footprint of the aircraft.
Question: Why did Boeing build the B787 Instead of Shrinking the B777?
Answer: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the first clean-sheet build that the company has had in a long time. But if the B787 flies long-thin routes, wouldn’t it have been cheaper to shrink the B777, instead of developing a new aircraft from scratch?
The Boeing 787 was designed to be fuel efficient and usher in a new age of design for Boeing. The technology used on the B787 has found its way into the newer 747s and even set the basis for the B777X models.
Shrinking the B777 to reduce capacity and have it fly long thin routes would reduce the fuel consumption by reducing the overall gross weight of the aircraft.
But the engines on the B777 are some of the most powerful, and it would be unnecessary for the operations of a smaller B777, and shrinking the aircraft would only marginally reduce the cost. A smaller B777 would have not been an aircraft that airlines would buy.
The B777 and B787 both operate long-haul routes, but the routes that each aircraft operates are very different. The high-capacity B777 transports passengers from one major airport to another, while the B787 operates routes thinner routes that have their own market.
Airlines operate both these planes to minimize costs per flight and increase economy per seat, which is why they aren’t interchangeable and cannot be compared to one another effectively.
- Boeing 787 Guide and Specs: A Dream Come True?
- Boeing 777 Guide and Specs
- Boeing 737 Guide and Specs: The Baby of the Family
- Boeing 747 Guide and Specs: Long Live the Queen
- Boeing 757 Guide and Specs: Does It Live Up to the Legacy?
- Atalay, M. (2022, July 29). Boeing 777 guide and specs – Aviator insider. Natalia Bickell. https://aviatorinsider.com/airplane-brands/boeing-777/
- Casinader, T. (2022, August 26). Boeing 787 guide and specs: A dream come true? – Aviator insider. Natalia Bickell. https://aviatorinsider.com/airplane-brands/boeing-787/
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