January 29th marked the first flight of Boeing’s new 737 Max 8 from Runway 34 at Renton Municipal Airport near Seattle, Washington.
This is a significant moment for not only airlines, but private customers too. Boeing’s 737 BBJ has most popular with VIP and corporate interior completion, and operation worldwide. The new technologies that feature in Boeing’s new 737 Max 8 will deliver this, but enable the BBJ to fly further, faster, cleaner and provide an aircraft servicable for the next centuries.
The first 737 Max to fly, call sign BOE1, reached a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet and flew at a top speed of 250 knots during its maiden journey, which lasted two hours, 47 minutes. A four-airplane, nine-month flight test campaign is expected to culminate in FAA certification and delivery to Boeings commercial launch customer Southwest Airlines in the third quarter of 2017.
The aircrafts new CFM Leap-1B engines, whose efficiency improvements account for most of the 14-percent fuel burn reduction Boeing cites for the Max 8 variant over the today’s 737NG, spooled up with a distinctive whine Friday as the airplane prepared to roll down the runway on its firsttake-off. But once underway, test pilot Wilson reported a noticeable lack ofnoise. “We were amazed at how quiet the cabin was,” he toldreporters.
In addition to the new-design engines and major avionics upgrades, there are several aerodynamic changes. These include a pair of “dual feather” winglets expected to deliver up to a 1.8-percent fuel efficiency improvement over the current “in line”design.
Having now collected orders for more than 3,072 Max jets, Boeing will build the first airplanes exclusively on a new production line in its Renton, Washington factory. The new line will allow the team to isolate assembly of the first Boeing 737 Max from the rest of production to help it learn and perfect the new build process while the Boeing Renton factory continues to turn out airplanes at rate of 42 a month. Once mechanics validate the production process, the company will extend Max production to the other two final assembly lines in Renton.
Since last year, Boeing has restructured the factory floor in Renton yet again and installed the wing-to-body join tool that the two current production lines use, ensuring its production readiness for the Max. Meanwhile, the company has consolidated fuselage systems installation from two parts, each serving one assembly line, into a single new three-level, moving design tool, allowing the company to make more efficient use of its available space in Renton.
So far, the 737 Max has suffered no delay-causing problems. The first airframe, “Spirit of Renton,” rolled off the assembly line and into the paint booth days early.
Using the reworked floor plan, Boeing plans to increase production three times by 2019, when the rate is expected to reach 57 airplanes amonth.