SEATTLE, June 17 (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) prepared to hold a maiden flight of its largest family member 737 MAX on Friday, in a further step towards the recovery of the safety immobilizer from a smaller model.
The 737 MAX 10’s maiden voyage, scheduled for around 10:00 a.m. local time (5:00 p.m. GMT) in the Seattle area, heralds months of testing and certification before it enters service in 2023.
In an unusual departure from the public relations buzz surrounding early flights, the event has been deliberately kept under wraps as Boeing attempts to deal with overlapping crises caused by the 20-month downtime following two crashes. and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boeing’s 230-seat 737-10 is designed to bridge the gap between its 178-220-seat 737-9 and the 185-240-seat Airbus A321neo (AIR.PA), which dominates the upper end narrow body. jet aircraft market, valued at approximately $ 3.5 trillion over 20 years.
However, the market opportunity for the 737 MAX 10 is limited by the jet’s range of 3,300 nautical miles (6,100 km), which is less than the 4,000 nm of the A321neo.
Boeing is also set to complete the aircraft’s safety certification under a stricter regulatory climate following two fatal crashes of a smaller version of the 737 MAX that brought the model to a standstill for nearly two years – with a safety ban still in force in China.
Boeing made design and training changes for the MAX family, which resumed operations in the United States in December.
While the smaller MAX 8 is Boeing’s best-selling jet, slow sales of the MAX 9 and 10 models put Boeing at a disadvantage compared to the A321neo.
Boeing has abandoned plans to tinker with the design of the 737 MAX 10, but is considering a bolder plan to replace the single-aisle 757, which straddles the upper end of the MAX family. Read more
Despite this, Boeing says it is confident in the MAX 10 and is stepping up efforts to sell more jets, with key targets including Ireland’s Ryanair (RYA.I).
Customers include United Airlines with 100 on order. Although sources say United is weighing a new order of at least 100 or even up to 200 MAX, its large single-aisle needs will be met by Airbus – further dividing the market.
Friday’s flight will feature a revamped landing gear system illustrating an industry battle to keep mileage as low as possible in the current generation of single-aisle aircraft.
It increases the height of the landing gear during take-off and landing, a design necessary to compensate for the MAX 10’s extra length and prevent the tail from scraping the runway on take-off.
Separately, UK authorities said they had opened an investigation after the front train collapsed on Friday of a British Airways Boeing 787 (ICAG.L) used for cargo while on the tarmac at Heathrow in London. No one was hurt.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler
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