Dubai - Flight testing of the 737 MAX 10 will commence in the first quarter of 2020.
Boeing has launched latest version of 737 MAX amid hopes that it will regain the airlines trust following announcement of new orders for the troubled aircraft at Dubai Airshow last week.
The MAX 10, which was launched at the 2017 Paris Air Show, has 230 seats, about 20 more than the version that crashed in ill-fated flights by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines. It has more than 550 orders and commitments from more than 20 customers including the flydubai, which placed an order for 50 aircraft at the 2017 Dubai Airshow.
"Today is not just about a new airplane. 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 following two deadly crashes involving casualties of 346 people, is expected to resume its flight operations by early next year.
Saj Ahmad, an 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 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, the 777-9X which will hopefully enter service with launch customer Emirates in the first quarter of 2021," he added.
About the leading airlines who placed order for 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 airplane ever produced. The airplane will now undergo system checks and engine runs prior to first flight next year.
"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," Jenks e said.
The 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.
Boeing said earlier this month that it hopes to get the green light from regulators before the end of the year but delayed its estimate for the resumption of commercial flights until January to allow for pilot training.
"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 employee crowd gathered for the debut of the first 737 MAX 10 at the company's Renton, Washington factory.
Ahmad of StrategicAero Research, 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.
"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.