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Boeing and Mount Rainier
Boeing’s first 737 MAX 7 jet takes a photogenic spin over Mount Rainier. (Boeing Photo)

For its first test flight, the newest and smallest sibling in Boeing’s top-selling 737 family of jets, the 737 MAX 7, took a three-hour trip today from Renton, Wash., to Seattle’s Boeing Field, just eight miles away.

Getting from Point A to Point B wasn’t the point: Instead, the circuitous journey was designed to give test pilots a chance to put the plane through its paces for the first time in the air. The flight path ranged from the tip of Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula to Moses Lake in central Washington, with several photogenic circles around Mount Rainier added for good measure.

Test pilots Jim Webb and Keith Otsuka were greeted with applause as they emerged from the cockpit at Boeing Field, at the end of a trouble-free flight.

“Everything we saw during today’s flight shows that the MAX 7 is performing exactly as designed,” Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX program for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a news release. “I know our airline customers are going to enjoy the capabilities this airplane will bring to their fleets.”

Like the other single-aisle 737 MAX variants, the MAX 7 has been optimized for low-cost operation. It incorporates fuel-efficient CFM International LEAP-1B engines as well as lift-maximizing wingtips and other innovations. That’s expected to result in an 18 percent reduction in fuel costs per seat, compared to its predecessor, the 737-700.

The MAX 7’s passenger capacity can range from 138 to 172 seats, depending on the configuration. It has the farthest range of the 737 MAX family, amounting to 4,430 statute miles (3,850 nautical miles).

After further flight tests and certification, the MAX 7 is due to get its first delivery to Southwest Airlines and go into service next year.

The plane is the smallest member of a MAX family with capacities ranging as high as 230 seats. The first 737 MAX jet, the MAX 8, made its maiden flight in January 2016, and that was followed by the MAX 9’s aerial debut in April 2017.

A 200-seat version of the MAX 8, designed specifically for low-cost airlines and known as the MAX 200, should be ready for flight next year. The largest variant of the single-aisle jet family, the MAX 10, is scheduled to enter service in 2020.

The MAX line is part of what’s recognized as the world’s most widely sold commercial jet family. Just this week, Boeing rolled out its 10,000th 737 jet, a 737 MAX 8 that’s going to Southwest Airlines. But Boeing’s European rival, Airbus, is hot on the 737’s tail with its own single-aisle A320 family. Boeing has more than 4,600 orders lined up for 737s, while Airbus has a backlog of more than 6,000 A320 orders.

To date, the MAX 7 accounts for roughly 60 of Boeing’s orders.

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