Boeing says its 737 MAX 8 is on track for first delivery in “coming months” after the aircraft received certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at the end of a flight test program that lasted just under 14 months.
The company said the FAA had granted Boeing an “amended type certificate for the 737 MAX 8, verifying the design complies with required aviation regulations and is safe and reliable”.
“Boeing is now in the final stages of preparing for the first 737 MAX 8 delivery to customers in the coming months,” Boeing said in a statement on Thursday.
The 737 MAX 8 completed its first flight in January 2016 and four aircraft have been used in the flight test campaign. US giant Southwest Airlines is the launch customer for the 737 MAX 8.
As well as its new generation CFM LEAP 1B engines, 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 current model 737 NGs, 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 737 MAX 8 has been designed to fly 3,515nm when configured with 162 passengers in a two-class configuration.
The MAX family of aircraft is the fourth iteration of Boeing’s 737. There are four MAX variants – from the smallest MAX 7 to the MAX 8 and stretched MAX 9, as well as the 200-seat MAX 200.
Also, the company recently outlined in public for the first time a proposed MAX 10X, which features 230 seats in a single-class layout or 189 seats in a two-class configuration.
In this part of the world, Virgin Australia has ordered 40 737 MAX aircraft. The airline recently deferred first delivery to the final quarter of the 2019 calendar year, from 2018 previously.
Boeing’s other two 737 MAX customers in Oceania are Air Niugini, which put pen to paper in February 2016 for four MAX aircraft arriving from 2020, and Fiji Airways, which has five 737 MAX 8s slated for delivery from 2018.
The 737 MAX program has booked 3,621 orders through February 2017, according to the Boeing website.
Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said during the company’s quarterly earnings call on January 25 (US time) the MAX was expected to comprise 10 to 15 per cent of all 737 deliveries in calendar 2017.
Muilenburg reaffirmed previous guidance that the 737 production rate would rise from 42 aircraft per month currently to 47 per month in the third quarter of calendar 2017. It would then increase further to 52 per month and 57 per month in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
“And importantly, even at the 57 per month rate, we continue to be oversold. Simply put, this is a big attractive market and the 737 family’s position within it is solid,” Muilenburg said.
The 737 MAX competes with the Airbus A320neo family of aircraft, which has booked 5,063 orders through February 2017, according to the Airbus website. The first A320neo was delivered to Lufthansa in January 2016.