Thousands of Boeing employees turned out today for the rollout of the first Boeing 737 MAX jet, a redesigned version of the long-lived model that’s way more fuel-efficient.
The freshly painted blue-and-white MAX No. 1 had its coming-out party at Boeing’s final assembly factory in Renton, Wash. – sparking a flurry of tweets from attendees:
— We Are Boeing SC (@weareboeingsc) December 8, 2015
— Adam Tischler (@tisquatch) December 8, 2015
— Ricardo Luevano (@rluevano99) December 8, 2015
The MAX boasts more aerodynamically efficient “dual feather” winglets, a redesigned nose and tail, and a new breed of LEAP-1B engine that should boost the 737’s fuel efficiency by 14 percent per seat and reduce operating costs by 8 percent. The Boeing Sky interior will accommodate more seats and more storage for carry-ons, while the cockpit will have larger flight displays for the crew.
A third final-assembly line was added to the Renton factory to accommodate 737 MAX production alongside two other 737 lines. Eventually, all three lines will be devoted to the MAX. So far, Boeing has orders for 2,955 MAXs, The Seattle Times reports. The first test planes are due to be flying by mid-2016, and the first deliveries are due in 2017.
Boeing hopes that the MAX will keep the 737 competitive with Airbus’ A320neo family in the single-aisle commercial jet market, but there’s turbulence ahead. The A320neo family currently holds a 60-40 lead in firm orders, aviation industry analyst Scott Hamilton said in a report on Leeham News and Comment.
“As good as Boeing claims the airplane will be, and as much spin as Boeing’s marketing department tries to put on the rivalry vs. the Airbus A320neo, the 737 MAX clearly is second fiddle — and it’s not going to get better,” Hamilton wrote.