Editor's note: French officials said it may be a week or more before investigators determine whether a piece of debris found on the island of Réunion came from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, The New York Times reports. Based on photographs and video, U.S. officials have said the object likely came from a Boeing 777, and MH370 is the only known missing Boeing 777. However, Australian and Malaysian officials have cautioned it's too early to know for sure if the debris is from the missing aircraft, which vanished with 239 people aboard in March 2014. An aircraft engineer told The Times that photos suggest the found object "separated from the aircraft violently" and "it's pretty clear the aircraft didn't survive, it was completely destroyed." Australian officials say the ongoing search off Western Australia for the missing plane will continue. - Stephanie
Malaysian prime minister: 'Initial reports suggest that the debris is very likely to be from a Boeing 777, but we need to verify whether it is from flight MH370. At this stage it is too early to speculate' - @NajibRazak
The Boeing 777 is a family of long-range wide-body twin-engine jet airliners developed and manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the world's largest twinjet and has a typical seating capacity for 314 to 451 passengers, with a range of 5,235 to 9,380 nautical miles (9,695 to 17,372 km). Commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven", its distinguishing features include the largest-diameter turbofan engines of any aircraft, six wheels on each main landing gear, fully circular fuselage cross-section, and a blade-shaped tail cone. Developed in consultation with eight major airlines, the 777 was designed to replace older wide-body airliners and bridge the capacity difference between Boeing's 767 and 747. As Boeing's first fly-by-wire airliner, it has computer-mediated controls. It is also the first entirely computer-aided designed commercial aircraft.
The 777 is produced in two fuselage lengths as of 2014. The original 777-200 variant entered commercial service in 1995, followed by the extended-range 777-200ER in 1997. The stretched 777-300, which is 33.25 ft (10.1 m) longer, followed in 1998. The longer-range 777-300ER and 777-200LR variants entered service in 2004 and 2006 respectively, while the 777F, a freighter version, debuted in February 2009; these variants all feature General Electric GE90 engines and extended raked wingtips. The earlier 777-200, -200ER and -300 versions are equipped with GE90, Pratt & Whitney PW4000, or Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines. The 777-200LR is the world's longest-range airliner, able to fly over halfway around the globe, and holds the record for the longest distance flown non-stop by a commercial aircraft.
The 777 first entered commercial service with United Airlines on June 7, 1995. It has received more orders than any other wide-body airliner; as of May 2015, 60 customers had placed orders for 1,852 aircraft of all variants, with 1,304 delivered. The most common and successful variant is the 777-300ER with 570 delivered and 786 orders; Emirates operates the largest 777 fleet, with 138 passenger and freighter aircraft as of July 2014. The 777 has been involved in five hull-loss accidents as of July 2014; the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 accident in July 2013 was its first fatal crash in 18 years of service.
The 777 ranks as one of Boeing's best-selling models. Airlines have acquired the type as a comparatively fuel-efficient alternative to other wide-body jets and have increasingly deployed the aircraft on long-haul transoceanic routes. Direct market competitors include the Airbus A330-300, newly launched Airbus A350 XWB, and the out-of-production A340 and McDonnell Douglas MD-11. The 787 Dreamliner, which entered service in 2011, shares design features with the 777. In November 2013, Boeing announced the development of upgraded 777-8X and 777-9X models, collectively named 777X, featuring composite wings and GE9X engines and further technologies developed for the 787. The 777X series is planned to enter service by 2020.