Boeing’s latest jet, the 737 MAX 10, took flight for the first time on Friday, lifting off from the airport adjacent to its Renton, Washington manufacturing plant in clear skies. The aircraft later landed at the company’s Boeing Field test facility in nearby Seattle.
It is the fourth and final iteration of Boeing’s 737 MAX series, which launched with the -8 model in 2016. The -10 is a relatively straightforward stretch of the -8, adding 14ft to the fuselage for a total length of 143ft, 8in.
That extra aluminum on the outside translates to – you guessed it – more seats on the inside. Boeing says the airplane can seat as many as 230 in a single-class configuration, though it cites a more bearable 188-204 passenger count in two-class arrangements.
The only other substantial change is in the landing gear, which uses an innovative retraction system to simultaneously increase the gear’s height while remaining able to fit into the existing wheel well.
Boeing says the jet can fly up to 3,300nm, enabling the airplane to connect New York to Western Europe and deep into the Caribbean.
The exact number of orders is not known – Boeing declined to provide a current count for the MAX 10 and only invited a handful of local outlets to the event itself, citing COVID protocols – but it is believed to be between 375 and 450 airplanes.
Yet questions continue to fly around whether the MAX program will be able to make a dent in the otherwise runaway success of the airplane’s main competitor: the Airbus A320neo family, and specifically the deeply popular A321neo model.
The MAX 10 was developed in large part in answer to the A321neo. Yet the MAX 10 only solves for seat count, and even then only partially; it tops out at 230 passengers versus the Airbus’ 244.
The matter of range remains the primary problem for the MAX jets, with the current longest range Airbus A321 model retaining a comfortable, several hundred-mile lead on the Boeing jets. To add insult to injury, Airbus is also developing the A321XLR, which when completed in 2023 will fly nearly 4700nm.
The result, so far, is a sales gap of almost 2:1 for the A320neo family vs the MAX program overall, according to numbers released by both companies. Boeing’s public information does not break down by individual models, though information available online suggests the MAX 10 likely has between 375 and 450 orders. If so, the A321neo is vastly outselling the similarly sized MAX 10, at a rate of 8 to 1.
Nevertheless, the MAX 10’s first flight is a welcome shot of good news for a program that has seen mostly dark days in recent years. Certification of the MAX 10, originally targeted for 2020 but held up due to the worldwide grounding following two fatal 737 MAX crashes, can finally begin in earnest.
Boeing is targeting 2023 for first delivery, with United Airlines as the launch customer.
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Featured image credited to the author, Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren