The aircraft (N8794Q • MSN 36988 • LN 5788) is the 7th 737 MAX built and the 4th in the flight test campaign. The airliner has been fitted with the new Heart passenger cabin, recently introduced by Southwest Airlines, launch customer of the 737 variant.
The MAX Program Keeps on Schedule
Speaking to Airways, Vice President and General Manager 737 MAX Keith Leverkuhn, explained that the program keeps on schedule as the flight test campaign has evolved uneventfully. Leverkuhn confirmed that the Entry Intro Service (EIS) has been moved forward to the first half of 2017, a quarter ahead of its planned schedule. Boeing has been “paranoid about making sure we [Boeing] build the airplane on time and correctly is healthy.” He said.
The MAX flight testing campaign has logged so far 600 flight hours and 300 flights, and it is currently focused on Extended Operations (ETOPS), which will enable the airliner to fly longer distances between diversion airports. Also, during the next two months, the 737 MAX will undergo test to obtain the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.
The maturity of the basic platform on which the 737 MAX relies, and the uneventful evolving of the flight test campaign have been the key factors to showcase the MAX in Farnborugh, just 13 months since the assembly of the wings of the first aircraft.
Currently, the 737 MAX is being built on a third surge production line in Renton, which will become a permanent production line. This go-slow line will progressively ramp up its production until meeting the current rates of the Next Generation (NG) lines, before transitioning to these.
Leverkuhn also announced that two 737 MAX 9 will join the flight test fleet in 2017. About a potential larger version of the 737 MAX 7, Leverkuhn commented that the variant may “happen at anytime.”
Operating like an airline
Ed Wilson, Production Chief Pilot, 737 program, said that Boeing expects to reach a dispatch reliability of 99.8% at EIS. In order to achieve this goal, Boeing is currently focused on operating the 737 MAX using a “fly-turn-fly” approach, just like an airline would do it, flying 8 times in a day, in short haul flights and with 30-45 minute turnarounds. So far, Boeing has done this for two days.
Boeing expects to simulate Southwest’s schedule from Dallas Love Field around September, using Southwest’s checklists, crews and routes in a Service-Ready Operational Validation (SROV), in one of the final steps before the delivery to the airline.
When referring to the crew transition from the 737NG to the 737 MAX, Wilson commented that there will not be any differences in the training, and crews will only require two days to transition from the 737NG to the 737 MAX.
“From a pilot perspective, only the larger flight displays are noticeable” Wilson said.