WASHINGTON: Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX 10, the largest member of its best-selling single-aisle airplane family, took off on its maiden flight on Friday, in a further step toward recovering from the safety grounding of a smaller model.
The plane completed a roughly 2-1/2-hour flight over Washington State, returning to Renton Municipal Airport near Seattle at 12:38 p.m.
The first flight heralds months of testing and safety certification work before the jet is expected to enter service in 2023.
In an unusual departure from the PR buzz surrounding first flights, the event was kept low-key as Boeing tries to navigate overlapping crises caused by a 20-month grounding in the wake of two crashes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boeing must also complete safety certification of the plane under a tougher regulatory climate following two fatal crashes of a smaller 737 MAX version grounded the model for nearly two years — with a safety ban still in place in China.
Boeing has carried out design and training changes on the MAX family, which returned to US operations in December.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said the company is producing about 16 737 MAX jets a month at its Renton factory.
Boeing is working on safety enhancements for the 737 MAX 10, including for its air data indication system and adding a third cockpit indication requested by European regulators of the “angle of attack,” a parameter needed to avoid stalling or losing lift. Deal’s comments were provided to the media via a pool reporter inside a Boeing aircraft delivery center.
“We’re going to take our time on this certification,” Deal said.
The flight showcased a revamped landing gear system illustrating an industry battle to squeeze as much mileage as possible out of the current generation of single-aisles.
It raises the landing gear’s height during takeoff and landing, a design needed to compensate for the MAX 10’s extra length and prevent the tail scraping the runway on takeoff.