The fourth iteration of Boeing’s 737, the 737 MAX, has completed its first flight, marking the commencement of a four aircraft flight test campaign.
The first 737 MAX development aircraft, 737 MAX 8 N8701Q Spirit of Renton, took off from Boeing’s Renton, Washington State site (where all 737s are built) at 9:46am local time on Friday with 737 MAX chief pilot Ed Wilson and Boeing chief test pilot and vice president of flight operations Craig Bomben at the controls. It landed at Boeing Field, Seattle 2 hours 47 minutes later, after reaching a maximum altitude of 25,000ft and an airspeed of 250kt.
“The flight was a success,” Wilson said in a statement. “The 737 MAX just felt right in flight giving us complete confidence that this airplane will meet our customers’ expectations.”
As well as its new generation CFM LEAP 1B engines, key to delivering a 14 per cent reduction in fuel burn compared to current 737 NG aircraft (and over 20 per cent compared to early-build 737 NGs), the 737 MAX also introduces a new flightdeck, fly-by-wire spoilers and new technology winglets. To accommodate the LEAP 1B’s 176cm fan diameter, compared to the CFM56’s 155cm diameter fan on the 737 NG, the 737 MAX also features a taller nosewheel landing gear leg, while the engine nacelles’ trailing edges feature noise-reducing chevron shaping, as on the 787.
Boeing so far holds 3,o72 firm orders for the 737 MAX in its four variants – 737 MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 200 and MAX 9 – from 62 customers, including Virgin Australia, which has 40 737-8s on order for delivery from 2018.
First customer delivery, to Southwest Airlines, is “on track” for the third quarter of 2017, Boeing says.