Boeing's newest airliner took to the sky for the first time on Friday. The Boeing 737 Max flew from the company's Renton, Washington, factory for a 2 1/2-hour maiden flight before landing at Boeing Field near Seattle. The first completed 737 Max 8 airliner rolled out of the assembly facility in Renton last month and was presented at a ceremony in front of several thousand Boeing employees.
The prototype took off for its inaugural flight with Boeing's flight-operations vice president and chief test pilot, Craig Bomben, and Capt. Ed Wilson at the controls. Over the years, the 737 family has become the best-selling airliner in the history of commercial aviation, with more than 13,000 aircraft sold since 1965. It is arguably Boeing's bread-and-butter model.
"We think we have a terrific product here," Keith Leverkuhn, the Boeing 737 Max program general manager, said following the flight. "We think it's going to be the preferred aircraft in the market."
Here's a closer look at the history of the Boeing 737 and the fourth-generation Max:
Since its introduction in 1967, Boeing's 737 has helped revolutionize short- to medium-range air travel. Upon its debut, the original 737 was dubbed the "baby Boeing."
The 737 offered airlines a capable and reliable aircraft at a lower price than Boeing's larger and more expensive 707 and 727 models — perfect for short routes between cities.
In the late 1970s, Boeing developed a generation of 737 jets called the "Classic Series." These jets offered more range and seating. In addition, the Classic Series was offered with the new CFM56 turbofan engines, which provided greatly improved fuel economy and power.
In 1997, Boeing introduced another upgraded series of 737s called the "737 Next Generation."
Equipped with updated avionics, a full-glass cockpit, and fuel-saving winglets, these are the 737s in service today.
With competition from the Airbus A320 at a fever pitch, Boeing has launched the latest generation of the venerable jet, called the 737 Max.
The 737 Max will compete against Airbus' new A320neo.
The first 737 Max rolled out of the production hangar on November 30 before heading to the paint shop. According to Boeing, the jet met the company's production deadline, which was set more than four years ago.
With the less-than-successful sales run of the latest 747 jumbo jet and ...
... the rocky rollout of the 787 Dreamliner, ...
... the on-time and thus-far trouble-free arrival of the new 737 is refreshing.
To create the Max, Boeing made significant changes to the existing 737.
Boeing claims that the 737 Max's new wing tips reduce fuel consumption by 1.8%, compared to the current generation's wings.
The new jet will come with state-of-the-art, fuel-saving CFM International Leap 1B engines.
Boeing also redesigned the fuselage and wings of the jet to reduce weight and optimize aerodynamics.
Altogether, the company says that the new jet is 20% more fuel-efficient than the current 737s in service, and ...
... 8% cheaper per seat to operate than the rival A320neo.
Up front, the Max features a full-glass cockpit and the latest avionics.
Although the passenger cabin of the first Max is filled with flight-testing equipment, ...
... planes pulling passenger duty will feature Boeing's "Sky Interior."
The Boeing 737 Max series will range from the smaller, 149-seat Max 7 to the 220-seat Max 9. The jet that debuted this week is a 189-seat Max 8.
The second and third 737 Max aircraft are currently working their way down Boeing's Renton production line.
Currently, Boeing has more than 3,000 orders on the books for the 737 Max.
At 2015 prices, the smaller Max 7 starts at $90.2 million per plane, while the Max 9 starts at $116.6 million.
With the maiden flight out of the way, Boeing will begin the aircraft's flight-test program.
Boeing plans to deliver the first production version to launch partner Southwest Airlines sometime in the third quarter of 2017.
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