Boeing has shown off the first 737 MAX 9 as the clock ticks down to first delivery of the MAX 8 variant.
The 737 MAX 9 was presented to Boeing staff and invited guests at the company’s Renton, Washington facility on Tuesday (US time).
The aircraft, a stretch of the MAX 8, has been designed with a maximum range of 3,515nm for up to 220 passengers in a single-class or 178 passengers in a two-class configuration.
Boeing said 737 MAX 9 flight testing would begin in the “coming weeks”, after the aircraft undergoes system checks, fuelling and engine runs.
The 737 MAX 8 is currently in flight testing and due for first delivery in a few months.
“We are going to begin delivering aircraft in the first half of this year and we are on track to deliver our first MAX in the second quarter of 2017,” Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said during the company’s quarterly earnings call on January 25.
The 737 MAX program has booked 3,612 orders through January 2017, according to the Boeing website. In addition to the MAX 8 and 9, Boeing also offers the smaller MAX 7 and 200-seat MAX 200 as part of the 737 MAX family.
The company was also currently evaluating other variants, saying “studies and discussions continue with customers on growing the family”.
At a recent aviation conference, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president for marketing Randy Tinseth showed the first details of what the company has dubbed the proposed MAX 10X, which features 230 seats in a single-class layout or 189 seats in a two-class configuration.
Tinseth told the ISTAT Americas conference, held in San Diego, Boeing hoped to launch the aircraft this year, according to the Leeham News and Comment website.
While Boeing has not published a breakdown of 737 MAX orders by variant, 14 airlines have been publicly announced as MAX 9 customers including Air Canada, Copa Airlines and Icelandair.
However, market analysts have estimated that the Airbus has booked three or four times as many orders for its A321neo compared with the 737 MAX 9.
The competitive disadvantage of the MAX 9 versus the A321neo has led some to believe Boeing may choose to launch a new aircraft model as a replacement for the 737.
In this part of the world, Virgin Australia has ordered 40 737 MAX aircraft. The airline recently deferred first delivery “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.