The new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft took to the skies for the first time on Friday, marking the start of a major flight-test programme.
The new fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft, which will be the successor to the popular B737 series, took off from Boeing’s airfield in Washington state for a two hour 47 minute flight, reaching a maximum altitude of 7,620 metres and an airspeed of 250 knots, or about 463kph.
“Today’s first flight of the 737 MAX carries us across the threshold of a new century of innovation – one driven by the same passion and ingenuity that have made this company great for 100 years,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ president & CEO, Ray Conner. “We are tremendously proud to begin testing an airplane that will deliver unprecedented fuel-efficiency in the single-aisle market for our customers.”
Boeing’s chief test pilot, Ed Wilson, said the inaugural flight was “a success”. “The 737 MAX just felt right in flight giving us complete confidence that this airplane will meet our customers’ expectations,” he commented.
Boeing is developing four versions of the B737 MAX – the 7, 8, 9 and 200, the last of which is a high-capacity version of the MAX 8. The company claims the aircraft will offer 8% lower operating costs than its rival, the Airbus A320neo.
To date, Boeing has taken orders for more than 3,000 B737 MAXs from 62 customers. The aircraft is expected to enter service with launch customer, Southwest Airlines, in 2017.