The order for four of Boeing’s newest narrowbody offering was announced at the Singapore Airshow on Friday. It was previously listed on Boeing’s orders and deliveries website as from an unidentified customer.
The Papua New Guinea flag carrier’s current fleet includes Boeing’s 737-700, 737-800 and 767-300ER, as well as the Fokker 100 and Fokker 70, and Dash 8 turboprops.
Air Niugini chairman Sir Frederick Reiher says the MAX will ensure the airline is able to “economically and efficiently connect our beautiful country with the rest of the world”.
“The superb economics of the 737 MAX will enable us to increase flight frequencies and develop into new markets which offer significant opportunities for Air Niugini,” he said in a statement.
The first 737 MAX test aircraft completed its first flight on January 29, and will shortly be joined by a second flight test aircraft that recently rolled out of the 737 final assembly line at Renton in Washington State.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes senior vice president and general manager for airplane development Scott Fancher said the 737 MAX program was progressing ahead of schedule and described the first test flight as “flawless”.
“The pilots reported the airplane behaved exactly as we expected, no drama. That’s what I call a successful first flight,” Fancher told reporters during a media briefing at the Singapore Airshow on Wednesday.
“That’s really a statement I think on how stable the development of this airplane has been.
“That date that we had scheduled was months ahead of the date we needed to fly in order to meet our customer commitments.
“We are about ready to complete initial stability control of the airplane. That allows us now to go into flutter testing which will be next phase of testing we go into.
“We are not seeing any problems with the behaviour of the airplane and we continue to execute on track.”
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.
The start of the flight testing and the commentary about the good progress of the MAX certification program has raised speculation the manufacturer may be in a position to deliver the first aircraft to launch customer Southwest Airlines before the publicly stated third quarter of 2017, such as this analysis from Leeham News and Comment’s Bjorn Fehrm.
However, Fancher declined to offer any guidance when asked how far ahead Boeing was on the MAX flight test program or if the company had had any discussions with airlines about potential early deliveries.
“I am not going to comment on discussions we may or may not have had with customers,” Fancher said.
Boeing also received a commitment for 12 737s, comprising eight 737 MAX 8s, three 737 MAX 9s and one 777-900ER from China-based Okay Airways at the Singapore Airshow.
The order would be added to Boeing’s orders and deliveries website once approved by the Chinese government, Boeing said.
The privately-owned Okay is based at Beijing’s Tianjin Binhai International Airport and is a current Boeing operator with 18 737s in its fleet.
Meanwhile, Airbus and Philippine Airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Singapore Airshow for six A350-900s, as well as six purchase options.
Philippine Airlines is a new customer for the A350 and the airline planned to deploy the six Airbus widebodies on routes from the Philippines to the US and Europe, including nonstop services between Manila and New York throughout the year with a full payload.
“After a thorough commercial and technical evaluation, the A350 came out on top in meeting our demanding requirements,” Philippine Airlines president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista said in a statement.
“With the A350 we will be flying the world‘s most modern airliner, bringing greatly enhanced efficiency and superior passenger comfort. The A350’s range capability has been an important factor in our decision, enabling us to offer non-stop service on all our premium long haul routes.”
Airbus has booked 777 firm orders for its A350 family of aircraft across 41 different customers.