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Virgin will have its first 737 MAX 8 by month’s end

written by Jake Nelson | June 14, 2023

Virgin Australia will take delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft by the end of the month.

Dubbed ‘Monkey Mia’, the aircraft – registered VH-8IA – will fly domestically for a short period of time to obtain regulatory approval and familiarise crews before beginning flights to Tokyo, according to a Virgin Australia spokesperson.

‘Monkey Mia’ will leave Seattle for Brisbane by the end of June, and once routine regulatory approvals are completed, the aircraft will enter the Virgin Australia network on our brand-new Cairns-Tokyo (Haneda) route,” the spokesperson said.

“The arrival of Monkey Mia is a significant milestone in our fleet renewal program and broader transformation. This aircraft will be followed by a further seven 737-8s, which will deliver an elevated experience to our guests as well as support Virgin Australia’s sustainability targets.”


VH-8IA was spotted in a test flight from Renton in Washington state – adjacent to Boeing’s Renton factory – to the planemaker’s facility at Grant County International Airport on Monday, 22 May. Images circulating on social media pages showed the plane already painted in Virgin Australia livery.

Virgin will commence its Haneda route using older 737-700 aircraft, starting with the first flight on 28 June, after delays caused by issues with Boeing supplier Spirit Aerosystems thwarted plans to launch the route using the 737 MAX 8.

In April, Boeing told the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that Spirit had advised it of a “nonstandard manufacturing process” used for fittings in the 737 MAX’s aft fuselage that could result in noncompliance with required specifications. This affects a “significant number” of undelivered planes, it said in a statement.

“We expect lower near-term 737 Max deliveries while this required work is completed. We regret the impact that this issue will have on affected customers and are in contact with them concerning their delivery schedule,” the statement read.

“We will provide additional information in the days and weeks ahead as we better understand the delivery impacts.”

Virgin has ordered eight MAX 8 aircraft, all of which are affected by the delay, though its 25 MAX 10 aircraft are not expected to be impacted.

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