Here’s one way to save on gate space, build a 777 with folding wingtips! That’s what Boeing has done with their 777x that will have hinges 11 feet from the tips when it launches in the 2020s, providing the jet access to gates built for smaller planes. From Bloomberg:
Thanks to a sculpted, composite wing borrowed from Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the 777X will be the first twin-engine jet to haul a jumbo’s payload of 400 passengers. It will also burn less fuel than smaller competitors, such as Airbus SAS’s A350-1000. Boeing’s engineers have developed a “landing-gear-door kind of simplicity and reliability” in the technology that folds and unfolds the new jet’s wingtips, said Bob Feldmann, vice president and 777X program manager. “The folding wingtip is a critical element of the architecture of this airplane,” he said. Without that feature, the jet’s 233-foot wingspan would restrict it to the dozen or so airports worldwide whose taxiways and parking positions have been widened to handle jumbo jets like Airbus’s A380 and Boeing’s 747-8.
It’s been designed before, but never implemented:
Engineers at McDonnell Douglas Corp. designed a folding wing for the MD-12, a double-decker jumbo jet that was on the drawing board, before the aerospace company was acquired by Boeing in 1997, says Adam Pilarski, a former chief economist and director of strategic planning at McDonnell Douglas. Boeing had designed an optional folding wing for the original 777s in the early 1990s at the prodding of Bob Crandall, then chief executive officer of American Airlines but it never worked out. American decided not to order the jet, while other customers balked at the added weight of the hydraulic mechanism and complexity of repairing breakdowns. In the coming 777X, pilots will manually unfold the wing as they taxi to a runway for takeoff. Boeing and carriers are still deciding whether the wing will automatically fold when the plane reaches a safe speed after landing, or if this task will be left to pilots.