Boeing 737 MAX 9 makes First Flight

Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 made its first flight today, departing the manufacturer’s Renton plant in Washington at 10:52 PT (17:52 Z). The aircraft, registered N7379E (MSN 42987) landed at Boeing Field at 13:34 PT (20:34 Z), after testing onboard airframe and cockpit systems.

The flight was commanded by Boeing Chief Deputy Test Pilot Capt. Christine Walsh

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N7379E departing Renton

The flight, under the callsign of BOE901 departed Renton over Lake Washington before heading West over Port Angeles Fairchild Airport and then East towards Spokane. The flight then turned back on a Westerly heading before moving South over Ellensburg and continuing to Olympia before touching down at Boeing Field.

The takeoff was delayed 90min at Renton airport due to a loss of telemetry communications between the aircraft on the ground with Boeing’s control centre. A radio dedicated to flight test communications also failed to work properly after take-off.

Despite the difficulties, Walsh and Boeing Capt Ed Wilson managed to complete a full test flight, validating the 737 MAX 9’s handling at each flap setting, speeds up to 240kts and altitudes up to 24,000ft. The crew also shutdown and re-lit each of the 28,000lb-thrust CFM International Leap-1B engines in sequence.

The 737 MAX 9 landed with only one uncompleted task: a publicity photo by the chase aircraft, which was called off because of a thick blanket of clouds around Mount Rainier.

Capt Christine Walsh, who became the first woman to pilot a new Boeing commercial passenger aircraft on first flight, said “It was a workout,” in a post-landing press conference at Boeing’s Seattle Delivery Center.
The momentous occasion comes just 50 years and 5 days after the first flight of the original Boeing 737-130, N515NA which departed Boeing Field on the 9th of April 1967. To this date, the 737 is Boeing’s best selling jet airliner.
Boeing’s latest airliner is a stretched version of the 737 MAX 8, with a fuselage that is 2.7m longer, allowing 220 seats compared to 200. Overall height and wingspan are the same across all four MAX variants.

The MAX family feature two CFM International LEAP-1B high bypass turbofans with a 9:1 ratio as well as Boeing’s drag reducing, fuel efficient Split Scimitar Winglets.

Michael Teal, 737 MAX Chief Project Engineer and Deputy Program Manager says deliveries of the MAX 9 can begin as early as 2020 if airlines order this year. China has been described as a promising market for the aircraft.

Flight tests will resume on 17 April with the first test aircraft as a second and final test aircraft nears completion inside Boeing’s Renton aircraft factory. As the second member of the re-engined single-aisle family to enter flight test after the 737 Max 8, the certification process for the 2.6m-stretched version is expected to proceed more rapidly with fewer resources.

About 30% of the test points completed by the 737 Max 8 must be revisited during the campaign for the 737 Max 9, says chief project engineer Michael Teal. All of the testing is focused on how the larger size of the 737 Max 9 affects the aerodynamic characteristics and the environmental control system.


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