Boeing rolled out its newest jetliner, the 737 MAX 9, early Tuesday at its assembly line here. The Chicago-based air-plane-maker anticipates a first flight for the aircraft in May of this year.
The plane is the second, and currently largest, instalment in the company's 737 MAX family of aircraft. It bests its older sibling, the smaller MAX 8 that was rolled out in December 2015, by almost nine feet in length. The new MAX 9 version of the jet will carry up to 220 passengers in a single-cabin layout.
The MAX 9 is capable of flying up to 3,515 miles non-stop, enabling it to fly such routes as New York to London, the company says.
The MAX family is Boeing's latest update to its popular 737 line of jetliners, used mostly for medium- and short-haul flights by airlines across the globe. This latest iteration marks the third major overhaul to the 737 since the program launched in 1967 and features new engines and other aerodynamic enhancements.
The first jet, a MAX 8, is expected to deliver to launch customer Norwegian in May. A smaller, longer-range MAX 7 is still on the drawing table, though it ultimately is expected to be built. A MAX 8 sub-variety with capacity for up to 200 passengers, dubbed the MAX-200, completes Boeing's present 737 MAX product line.
Until very recently, the MAX has been Boeing’s answer. Unfortunately for Boeing, potential customers haven't agreed.
Instead, airlines and lessors alike have flocked to the MAX 9's competitor and the closest 757 replacement so far, the Airbus A321neo. The Airbus jet, itself part of similar upgrade project to an already proven aircraft platform, seats more passengers (up to 236 in a high-density configuration) and flies farther than Boeing’s MAX 9.
For Airbus, that combination has been a winner; the A321neo is outselling Boeing's MAX 9 at a rate of at least three to one.
The disparity led Boeing to admit yesterday at an industry conference in San Diego that the company has been shopping around an even larger 737 MAX 10 to potential customers.
Boeing provided a handful of details on a company blog, saying only that the new air-plane will have the same capacity, greater range, and lower costs than the A321neo (something industry analysts and news reports have disagreed with). It will keep the same engines as the other aircraft in the MAX family, and if launched would enter service in 2020, Boeing said.
"I confirmed that Boeing is actively engaged in discussions with customers about the 737 MAX 10X," Randy Tinseth, VP, marketing at Boeing Commercial Air-planes, said via blog. "In fact, we’ve already extended business offers to some of those customers."
Boeing declined to answer any questions on the MAX 10 during Tuesday's roll out for the MAX 9, with spokespersons saying that more details will be shared soon.