Boeing quietly unveiled the $442 million airliner that will replace the 747 jumbo jet

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  • The Boeing 777X was unveiled on March 13 in a private employee-only event.
  • The 777X is destined to serve as Boeing's new flagship and as the replacement for the iconic 747 jumbo jet.
  • The 777X comes in two variants, the $410.2 million 777-8 and $442.2 million 777-9.
  • The jet is expected to enter service with launch customer Emirates in 2020.

Wednesday, March 13 was supposed to be a media bonanza for Boeing. The aviation giant was set to unveil its next great wide-body jetliner. One that is destined to serve as its flagship for decades to come and finally the replace the legendary 747 jumbo jet.

That day, the attention of the world's press was indeed trained upon Boeing. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reason.

Three days earlier, Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. All 157 passengers and crew on board the Boeing 737 Max 8 died. It was the second nearly brand-new 737 Max 8 to crash under strikingly similar circumstances. By Wednesday morning, the public uproar following the crash saw more than 50 regulatory agencies and airlines around the world ground or even outright ban the plane. That afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order that grounded the 737 Max in the US as well.

Read more: Two Boeing 737 MAX airliners have crashed since October - here are the airlines that fly the plane.

What was supposed to be a day of celebration for Boeing instead became one of the darkest days in the company's history.

The media junket was scrapped and instead, the first 777X prototype was introduced in a private ceremony reserved for employees.

With that said, the unfortunate circumstances surrounding its unveiling does not diminish the importance of the new Boeing 777X. Here's a closer look.

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On March 13, Boeing unveiled the first prototype of its upcoming 777X airliner before a crowd comprised of company employees.

On March 13, Boeing unveiled the first prototype of its upcoming 777X airliner before a crowd comprised of company employees.

The Boeing 777X will be available in two variants — the $410.2 million 777-8 and the $442.2 million 777-9.

The Boeing 777X will be available in two variants — the $410.2 million 777-8 and the $442.2 million 777-9.

The first prototype is that of a 777-9 and it will have some massive shoes to fill.

The first prototype is that of a 777-9 and it will have some massive shoes to fill.

The 777X will not only serve as the replacement for the original 777,...

The 777X will not only serve as the replacement for the original 777,...

It will also replace Boeing's iconic 747 jumbo jet.

It will also replace Boeing's iconic 747 jumbo jet.

It will be Boeing's new flagship.

It will be Boeing's new flagship.

"The big airplane of the future for the aviation industry is going to be the Boeing 777-9," Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing told Business Insider in an interview at the Farnborough Air Show last year. "It carries 400 passengers. It flies further than the 747 and the A380 does today."

Tinseth explained: "The twin-engine, twin-aisle economics of that airplane just beats the big four-engine aircraft, and it's just the reality of the market."

At 252 feet long, the 777-9 is the longest airliner in the world.

At 252 feet long, the 777-9 is the longest airliner in the world.

Split into two cabins, the 777-8 is expected to have room for 375 passengers while the 777-9 should be able to carry 425 people.

Split into two cabins, the 777-8 is expected to have room for 375 passengers while the 777-9 should be able to carry 425 people.

The interior is punctuated by a wider cabin with larger windows and a new lighting system.

The interior is punctuated by a wider cabin with larger windows and a new lighting system.

The 777X will be powered by a pair of massive GE9X turbofan engines. According to GE, it has the lowest emissions and is the quietest engine it has ever built.

The 777X will be powered by a pair of massive GE9X turbofan engines. According to GE, it has the lowest emissions and is the quietest engine it has ever built.

The 777X is equipped with wingtips that fold up when the plane is on the ground.

The 777X is equipped with wingtips that fold up when the plane is on the ground.

This helps the wing deliver great aerodynamic efficiency in the air, but allows it to fit into tighter space at airports.

This helps the wing deliver great aerodynamic efficiency in the air, but allows it to fit into tighter space at airports.

Boeing is also selling a private jet version of the 777X.

Boeing is also selling a private jet version of the 777X.

Here's one of the interior options available for the plane by Jet Aviation.

Here's one of the interior options available for the plane by Jet Aviation.

The 777X will be assembled at Boeing's Everett, Washington plant.

The 777X will be assembled at Boeing's Everett, Washington plant.

The Boeing has taken more than 350 orders for the 777X since it officially went on sale in May 2013.

The Boeing has taken more than 350 orders for the 777X since it officially went on sale in May 2013.

The 777X is expected to enter service in 2020 with launch customer Emirates, the largest operator of the current generation Boeing 777.

The 777X is expected to enter service in 2020 with launch customer Emirates, the largest operator of the current generation Boeing 777.
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