Washington State hasn’t had all that much to celebrate lately. Firefighters on the air and ground fought wildfires through much of the summer and fall, which gave way to early snowstorms, heavy rain, and now windstorms with wind speeds reaching 72 miles per hour (mph). The Seattle Seahawks weren’t even commanding the field as usual – until, of course, they dominated the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday (38 to 7). It’s The Boeing Company to the rescue, however. Today, Boeing provided a bright spot in Washington State -- and the global and local aerospace communities – as the first 737 MAX 8 exited the airframe manufacturer’s paint hangar in Renton, Wash.
Thousands of Boeing employees in Renton, Wash., celebrated the completion of final assembly of the first 737 MAX 8 this morning. The freshly painted 737 MAX 8, dubbed the “Spirit of Renton,” was revealed to employees in a special teal version of the Boeing livery.
The celebratory mood extends far past Renton. Many aerospace engineers – not to mention other high-tech pros, geeks, environmentalists, and travelers everywhere – are enthusiastic about this fourth-generation Boeing 737. (Check out #737MAX on Twitter to see pics of excited and proud Boeing employees with the first 737 MAX.)
What is so exciting about the 737 MAX?
Airlines the world over are logging orders for the 737 MAX. The 737 MAX family has nearly 3,000 orders from 60 customers worldwide (Boeing-provided image below). Low-cost airlines are buying up this new, fuel-efficient passenger jet – with the goal of saving fuel costs, reducing carbon emissions, making air travel more affordable, enticing new customers and more passengers, and saving on maintenance costs and boosting safety (versus nursing aging aircraft).
Sure, it’s a fourth generation, but this is no ordinary upgrade – this is a technology and manufacturing overhaul… an evolution. According to Boeing officials, “there's more advanced technology from nose to tail: new engines, new winglets, new flight deck displays and the passenger-preferred Boeing Sky interior.” Boeing recently updated and streamlined manufacturing, with the goal of ramping up production, bolstering efficiency and productivity without sacrificing quality or safety.
“Today marks another in a long series of milestones that our team has achieved on time, per plan, together,” affirms Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager, 737 MAX, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “With the rollout of the new 737 MAX – the first new airplane of Boeing’s second century – our team is upholding an incredible legacy while taking the 737 to the next level of performance.”
To see other journalists responding to the news with “meh” is disconcerting. The Boeing 737 MAX is a move in the right direction. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see Boeing, a longtime aerospace giant that has often been criticized as an industry dinosaur, modernizing manufacturing, increasing productivity, and investing in engineering and electronics innovations.
Now this first 737 MAX airplane will undergo preflight preparation in the factory before departing for Renton Field to continue flight test readiness. The airplane is on track for its first flight in early 2016. The second and third 737 MAX 8 flight test airplanes are currently in final assembly, and the fourth (and final) is in sub-assembly. The 737 MAX is on track for first delivery to launch customer Southwest Airlines in the third quarter of 2017, officials say.
The new single-aisle airplane will deliver 20 percent lower fuel use than the first Next-Generation 737s and the lowest operating costs (8 percent per seat less than the A320neo, officials say). The 737 MAX incorporates CFM International LEAP-1B engines, Boeing-designed Advanced Technology winglets, and other improvements to deliver the highest efficiency, reliability, and passenger comfort in the single-aisle market.
The 737 MAX 8 is the first member in Boeing’s new family of single-aisle airplanes – the 737 MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 200, and MAX 9 – to begin production.
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