Steve Wilhelm, Puget Sound Business Journal
Boeing plans to roll out its first 737 Max jetliner on December the 8th, a significant step in moving toward delivery of the latest version of Boeing’s smallest jet.
Such roll-outs are media events, a signal that flight testing will soon begin.
Actual deliveries to airlines are to start in the third quarter of 2017 to launch customer Southwest Airlines, one of the strongest buyers of the single-aisle jet.
This delivery date is evidence of how smoothly development of the 737 Max has gone, compared to the slow and troubled birth of the 787 Dreamliner. Originally Boeing had planned for the first Max delivery in 2019, but was able to move that up as the aircraft came together in Renton.
Competition also was a factor. Airbus on Tuesday completed certification of the competing A320neo with the European Aviation Safety Agency and Federal Aviation Administration. Airbus is to deliver the first A320 by the end of this year.
The December 8th roll-out of the 737 Max will be preceded by a tour of the assembly line the day before. Opening this third line in has been part of Boeing’s strategy for starting production of the 737 Max without compromising the 42-planes-a-month pace of the other two Renton production lines, which produce the current 737 models.
Boeing also is moving to more automation for all 737 models, such as for wing assembly.
The biggest differences in the new Max will be larger and more efficient engines, beefed up wing structures to support those engines, an updated cockpit similar to that in 787 Dreamliner, and an extension to the front landing gear to leave room under the jet for the larger engines.
These improvements mean the Max should burn 14 percent less fuel than the current 737s.