Boeing Innovation Quarterly – Folding Wingtip Control
4 Folding Wingtip Control: Indicating Position of Unique Design
The 777X is the first commercial airplane with folding wingtips. When extended, the wingtips increase the wingspan to further enhance aerodynamic efficiency, thereby reducing fuel use, emissions and engine thrust. After landing, the wingtips fold automatically so that the airplane can fit into the same gates as its predecessor, the 777-300ER (Extended Range), providing an operational advantage for customers.
During development, airlines requested that Boeing evaluate automating the wingtips to reduce crew workload. But pilots still needed the ability to control the wingtips in certain situations. Human factors engineer Paul Burkhead worked with dozens of test pilots, airline customers and regulators to understand standard flight procedures, asking questions to learn when and how pilots could most safely and efficiently operate the wingtips.
“We were open to every suggestion and eager to be creative,” Burkhead recalled. “As the only airplane manufacturer of a commercial airplane with folding wingtips, it was fascinating to begin with a blank slate.”
From the flight deck, crew members can’t see the wingtip position, and visual confirmation isn’t sufficient. An indicator is the only way to verify that wingtips are both extended and locked into position.
Burkhead and teammates created a first-of-its-kind control that is safe and easy to use. Test pilots asked for an indicator that signals when the wingtip is extended
or folded. A color-coded display does just that and is visible to the pilot from the flight deck seat.