Boeing 737 MAX 10 makes debut, hoping to regain customer trust
Flydubai among first carriers to place orders for new aircraft
Boeing has launched the latest version of the 737 MAX amid hopes that it will regain airlines' trust following the announcement of new orders for the troubled aircraft at last week's Dubai Airshow.
The MAX 10, which was launched at the 2017 Paris Air Show, has 230 seats - about 20 more than the version was involved in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. It has more than 550 orders and commitments from more than 20 customers, including flydubai, which placed an order for 50 aircraft at the 2017 Dubai Airshow.
"Today is not just about a new aeroplane. It's about the people who design, build and support it," said Mark Jenks, vice-president and general manager of the 737 programme. The troubled 737 MAX aircraft, which remains grounded globally, is expected to resume its flight operations by early next year.
SunExpress, a subsidiary of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, exercised options for an additional 10 737 Max 8 planes. SunExpress had previously ordered 32 of the 737 MAX jetliners.
Saj Ahmad, analyst at London's StrategicAero Research, said flight testing of the 737 MAX 10 will commence in the first quarter of 2020.
"Given the scrutiny of the MAX family, it is unclear when it will enter into service. First, the existing grounding has to be lifted. In the meantime, flight testing for certification of the 737-10 will continue and it is likely that the aircraft will enter into the service by 2021," he said.
"As of now, Boeing will be keen to see the 737 MAX family back in the air, so that it can then focus on flight tests of 737 MAX 10 as well as its other delayed jet such as the 777-9X, which will hopefully start commercial operations with launch customer Emirates in the first quarter of 2021."
About the leading airlines who placed orders for the 737 MAX 10, he said United Airlines is expected to get the first delivery of the aircraft. "In the GCC, flydubai has placed an order for 50 737-10s at the 2017 Dubai Airshow. Other notable buyers are listed as GOL, Lion Air and VietJet, along with several lessors," he said.
The 737 MAX 10, the largest variant of the MAX family, offers the lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle aeroplane ever produced. It will now undergo system checks and engine runs prior to first flight next year.
Upgraded flight handling system
The Boeing MAX 10 will contain an upgraded version of a flight handling system that has been seen as a key factor in both crashes involving casualties of 346 people.
The mechanism - the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) - has been tweaked to give the pilot more control. But regulators, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), have yet to sign off on the changes.
"I'm honoured to take this aeroplane on its first flight and show the world what you've put your heart and soul into," 737 chief pilot Jennifer Henderson told the employees gathered for the debut of the first 737 MAX 10 at the company's Renton, Washington factory.
Ahmad said Boeing still has a long road ahead of it to ensure that faith and trust in the MAX - not just from passengers, but from airlines and leasing companies - is fully restored.
"No one disputes that it will take time, but if Boeing knuckles down and concentrates on FAA regulatory compliance with regards to MCAS and other system updates, then the 737 MAX family will emerge much more stronger for the depth of testing it has faced and endured to ensure passenger safety is and remains the focal and primary priority at all times," he said.
"Airlines have faith that Boeing will get through this - that's why hardly any airlines have cancelled orders. In fact, the slow but steady updates about how the 737 MAX family is being improved has led to new and existing customers ordering the MAX despite it being grounded right now," he said.
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