With the immediate success of the first version of the Boeing 777 family, the 777-200, demand for a higher-capacity version arose from major airlines. Boeing introduced a stretched variant of the 777 that could accommodate more passengers while offering a slightly larger range than its predecessor.
The need for a twin-engine long range jet
By the 1980s, Boeing had been serving the commercial aviation market with its twin-engine 767s and the iconic four-engine 747s. There was a strong need to fill the gap between the two already-successful types. Around the same time, the ETOPS-180 regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enabled the use of twin-engine aircraft for transoceanic distances.
Taking the airlines’ demand and the FAA regulations into consideration, Boeing created a clean-sheet design in the form of the Boeing 777. The first member of the Boeing 777 family, the 777-200, entered commercial service in May 1995. Soon after, Boeing offered an extended version, the 777-200ER, to be entered into service by 1997. The -200ER could fly a distance of 7,065 nautical miles (13,080 km).
With the increasing popularity of the existing 777-200, airlines demanded an increased capacity version of the twin-engine. Boeing responded with a 20% larger variant, the 777-300, during the Paris Air Show in June 1995, also to be entered into service by 1997.
The Boeing 777-300
The Boeing 777-300 was designed to carry 368 passengers in a three-class configuration and fly a distance of 6,030 NM 11,165 km). The 777-300 offered an additional 63-passenger capacity, and an extra 790 NM (1,465 km) of range, in comparison to the shorter -200. Either the Pratt & Whitney 4000s or the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines could be used to power the 777-300.
The brand-new variant, the Boeing 777-300, rolled out of the final assembly line on September 8th, 1997. It became the longest passenger aircraft at the time, with the fuselage length measuring just over 242 ft (74 m). A month after its launch, on October 16th, the Boeing 777-300 took to the skies for the very first time.
The Boeing 777-300 proved to be successful in the medium-range high volume markets. Photo: Getty Images
Cathay Pacific was one of the eight airlines that had provided valuable input during the early stages of the Boeing 777 design. With its strong partnership with Boeing, Cathay Pacific became the launch customer of the 777-300 variant.
The first aircraft was delivered to the airline on May 21st, 1998. Not too long after the delivery flight, Cathay Pacific performed its first commercial flight with the 777-300 between Hong Kong and Osaka, on June 1st, 1998.
A total of 60 Boeing 777-300 aircraft were ordered by eight airlines and lessors. While the number of orders was relatively lower than the previous variants, the aircraft proved to be a success in the medium-range, high-capacity markets.
Along with Cathay Pacific, other Asian airlines, including All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL), deployed their 777-300s on concentrated short-to-medium haul routes with denser seating configurations.
The Boeing 777-300ER
The primary reason for the unpopularity of the 777-300 was the launch of the extended range variant, the 777-300ER. Even though the -ER version would not enter service until 2004, route flexibility, with an increased range of 7,370 nautical miles (13,650 km), was attractive enough for many airlines. With a whopping 838 orders, the 777-300ER would go on to become the best-selling variant of the 777 family.
Photo: Getty Images
Twenty-seven years later, as of September, there are 10 active examples of the B777-300 aircraft. Cathay Pacific, the launch customer of the type, remains the largest operator of the Boeing 777-300, with three out of 10 active aircraft in its fleet.
Have you had a chance to travel on one of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft? Tell us in the comments section.