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737 MAX 9 takeoff
Boeing’s first 737 MAX 9 jet takes off on its first test flight from the company’s plant in Renton, Wash. (Boeing Photo / Craig Larsen)

The newest sibling in Boeing’s 737 family, the MAX 9, made its first flight today from the company’s assembly plant in Renton, Wash. – 75 years after the Renton plant opened and 50 years after the first 737 took off.

The 737 MAX 9’s maiden flight began in Renton at 10:52 a.m. PT and ended a little less than three hours later at Seattle’s Boeing Field, after test pilots put the plane through a series of test maneuvers that ranged from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to the Spokane Indian Reservation. You can find a recap the flight on Boeing’s website.

Today’s takeoff marked the beginning of a flight test schedule that will continue for months, based at Boeing Field. First deliveries of the MAX 9 are scheduled in 2018.

The first 737 MAX, the “Dash-8,” took to the air from Renton a little more than 14 months ago. The MAX variant of the time-honored 737 family is designed to be 14 percent more fuel-efficient than the previous generation of the single-aisle jet, thanks to design tweaks as well as the MAX’s LEAP-1B engines.

The MAX 9 is a stretch version of the MAX 8. It can accommodate 178 to 220 passengers and has a range of 3,515 nautical miles, with further range improvements to come.

In 2019, Boeing plans to introduce the smaller MAX 7 and the higher-capacity MAX 200. There’s also talk of a larger MAX 10X that could make its debut by as early as 2020.

Boeing says the 737 MAX is the fastest-selling airplane in the company’s history, accumulating more than 3,700 orders to date from 86 customers worldwide. But the jet is facing tough competition from Airbus’ A320neo series, which has racked up more than 5,000 orders to date.

Since the first 737 takeoff in 1967, the jet has become the world’s best-selling commercial passenger airplane, with more than 9,400 deliveries to its name. That first production 737 is now part of the Museum of Flight’s collection in Seattle.

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