Hundreds of Boeing employees turned out today for the official rollout of the company’s biggest 737 MAX — a traditional rite in the birth of an airplane that was more muted this time, due to the eight-month-long grounding of all 737 MAX jets.
The 737 MAX 10 is a stretch version of the MAX 9, capable of accommodating 10 more seats (230 vs. 220 maximum) with slightly less maximum range (3,800 vs. 4,080 miles with an auxiliary tank). The smaller MAX 7 and MAX 8 fill out the product line.
Boeing has more than 550 orders and commitments for the MAX 10 from more than 20 customers around the globe. But the whole 737 MAX family is still in limbo because of the grounding that followed two catastrophically fatal accidents last year in October and this year in March.
Investigators traced the cause to a problem with an automatic flight control system on the 737 MAX. Boeing says a software patch will take care of the problem, but the Federal Aviation Administration still has to sign off on the plan for the upgrades and for pilot training. The planes aren’t likely to return to service until next year.
The first 737 MAX 10’s emergence from the factory floor in Renton, Wash., was an opportunity to recognize the efforts of Boeing employees to keep the program on track despite the past year’s tragedies and challenges.
“Today is not just about a new airplane. It’s about the people who design, build and support it,” Mark Jenks, vice president and general manager of the 737 program, was quoted as saying in a Boeing news release. “This team’s relentless focus on safety and quality shows the commitment we have to our airline customers and every person who flies on a Boeing airplane.”
The plane will undergo a series of system checks and engine runs on the ground in preparation for next year’s expected test flights. “I’m honored to take this airplane on its first flight and show the world what you’ve put your heart and soul into,” 737 Chief Pilot Jennifer Henderson told the crowd.
Here are some of the tweets from today’s rollout:
Chopper 7 over the Boeing 737 MAX 10, which the company rolled out this morning in Renton. Unlike some previous rollouts, reporters were not invited. The company released a single photo of what it called "an employee recognition event." Story on KIRO 7 News at 5. pic.twitter.com/6yZt7fPz5q
— Graham Johnson (@GrahamKIRO7) November 22, 2019
— Zoe Leong (@zoeleong) November 22, 2019
— Paul Lewis (@hitchin1066) November 22, 2019
— Jim Klug (@n1786b) November 22, 2019