Everything You Wanted to Know About the Boeing 737 MAX

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Boeing 737 MAX

DALLAS — The Boeing 737 MAX has been at the center of one of the biggest crises in aviation history, following two fatal crashes that resulted in the grounding of the entire fleet. Despite this, the 737 MAX remains one of the most popular aircraft in the world, with a rich history and a vast network of operators and suppliers.

The Boeing 737 MAX series is the fourth generation of the manufacturer’s narrowbody 737 airliner family. The MAX includes new engines and other improvements in comparison to the company’s Next-Generation (NG) 737 series. The single-aisle market benefits from the Boeing 737 MAX’s increased efficiency, improved environmental performance, and increased passenger comfort.

The type delivers outstanding economics, decreasing fuel use and pollutants by 20% while producing a 50% smaller noise footprint than the aircraft it replaces. It also has cutting-edge winglets and effective engines. When compared to its rivals, the 737 MAX delivers up to 14% cheaper airframe maintenance costs.

Boeing 737-10. Brandon Farris/Airways

Inauguration, Launch History

The Boeing 737 MAX series was introduced in December 2011 after receiving an order from Southwest Airlines. A Boeing 737-8 with the serial number 42554 and the registration N8701Q made the series’ inaugural flight on January 29, 2016, from Renton Field in Washington state. The 737-8 was certified by the FAA on March 8, 2017, following a nearly 14-month flight-testing procedure.

Boeing announced the fifth variant of the MAX series, the 737-10, at the 2017 Paris Air Show, a variant that is designed to directly compete with Airbus’s A321neo (new engine option). When it was launched in June 2017, the 737-10 had orders for 240 airplanes from operators and leasing companies.

This included AerCap, Aviation Capital Group (ACG), Copa Airlines, Donghai Airlines, GE Capital Aviation Services, Lion Air, Malaysian Airlines, TUI Group, United Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.

Boeing subsequently rolled out the first 737-10 airframe—Serial No. 66122, registered as N27751—at Renton in November 2019, with the first flight occurring on June 18, 2021. At the time of the variant’s first flight, Boeing stated that it expected this 737 MAX airframe to enter into service in 2023.  

The type certificate for all variants of the 737 series—from the -100 to the -9—is held by The Boeing Company of Renton, Washington.

737 MAX VariantFAA Certification Date
737-8March 8, 2017
737-9Feb. 15, 2018
737-8200 (737-8-200)March 31, 2021
Series Configuration range
N57004 Boeing Company (Blue Air) Boeing 737-8 MAX Unpainted KPDX PDX
N57004 Boeing Company (Blue Air) Boeing 737-8 MAX Unpainted KPDX PDX | Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Cabin Configurations, Outfitting

The 737-7, which is intended to have a maximum seating capacity of 172, is at the low end of the MAX series capacity range. This capacity is feasible in a single-class cabin with seats that have a 28- or 29-inch pitch. The -7’s dual-class seating capacity is decreased to 138–153 people, with the higher end of that range being feasible in a configuration that comprises eight business-class seats with a 36-in. pitch and 145 economy-class seats with a 29–30.

Boeing claims that the 737-8’s 189-passenger maximum capacity is feasible in a single-class cabin with seats that have a 29- or 30-inch pitch. The -8 can accommodate 162-178 passengers in a two-class arrangement, and the -9 can accommodate 178–193 passengers.

12 of the 178 passengers may be accommodated in business class seats with a 36-inch pitch, while the remaining 166 seats would be located in the economy cabin, which would have seats with a pitch of either 29 or 30 inches.

This is one conceivable layout for a 178-passenger dual-class -8. The 737-8-200 is the higher-capacity version of the 737-8 and may be configured with 200 seats, each with a 28-inch pitch.

737 MAX vs. 737NG Seating Comparison
MAX VariantMaximum Certified Passenger CapacityNG VariantMaximum Certified Passenger Capacity
737-7 (737 MAX 7)172737-700149
737-8 (737 MAX 8)189737-800189
737 8200 (737-8-200)212737-900ER220
737-9 (737 MAX 9)220
737-10 (737 MAX 10)230
Seating Comparison between 737MAX vs 737NG

The -9 and -10, which have maximum passenger capacities of 220 and 230, respectively, are the highest capacity variants of the 737 MAX series. Similar to the -7 and -8, the -9’s single-class layout is capable of accommodating those maximum capacities, with seats in a such arrangement having a 28-inch pitch.

The -9’s interior includes 177 economy-class seats with a 29- or 30-inch pitch and 16 business-class seats with a 36-inch pitch, and it can accommodate the high end of the dual-class seating range discussed earlier.

The 737 MAX flight deck. Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways

Cargo Capacity, Avionics

Two cargo compartments, labeled forward and aft, offer extra space in addition to the cabin’s usable space. For the 737-7, those compartments’ respective bulk volumes are 433 and 706, for a combined 1,139 ft3 of bulk cargo volume. The total space increases to 1,540 ft3, divided between 657 ft3 in the front cabin and 883 ft3 in the aft compartment on the 737-8 and -8-200.

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Featured image: Max Langley/Airways. References: Airways Archives, EASA TCDS (A320), FAA TCDS (737 and CFM LEAP-1B), Airbus, Boeing, and CFM International Commercial Materials

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