Last Friday, Boeing’s newest and largest variant of the 737 took flight for the first time. The type, named the Boeing 737 MAX 10, is an extended version of the infamous Boeing 737 MAX 8, a plane that had gained a highly critical public impression following its crashes in 2018 and 2019. The 737 MAX 10 took off from Renton Municipal Airport at 10:07 local time and flew for over 2 hours before landing at Boeing Field near Seattle. During the flight, the aircraft touched and went to Moses Lake and tested other aircraft functions. The captain said that the systems performed exactly as they expected. This test flight marks the first step for the certification of the MAX 10 aircraft, which Boeing hopes to deliver into commercial service in 2023.
737 MAX 10 Development
The Boeing 737 MAX 10 was first introduced in 2017 to compete against the Airbus A321neo, a plane that had been greatly outselling the Boeing 737 MAX 9 due to a larger maximum passenger capacity of 244 compared to 220 on the MAX 9. The MAX 10 is designed to carry a maximum of 230 passengers (10 more than the MAX 9), which brings the seating gap between the Boeing and Airbus competitors down to 14. Boeing also claims that the MAX 10 will have a 5% lower operating cost than the a321neo. The MAX 10 does not however match the range of the A321, as it can only fly 3300 nautical miles compared to the 4000 nautical mile range of the A321neo. The larger variant of the MAX was scheduled to be delivered in 2020, but such plans were delayed due to the grounding of the 737 MAX series for 20 months and the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay of the MAX 10 program and the stigma surrounding the 737 MAX series has clearly put the a321neo in the lead of Boeing for next generation narrow-body jets. The MAX 10 aircraft have also been faced with slow sales over the past few years as they have only received less than 500 orders while the a321neo has received 3,472 orders. Even the fastest selling MAX airplane, the MAX 8, has only received 2135 orders, a significantly less amount than the a321neo.
The Boeing 737 MAX 10 is the longest and biggest variant of the popular 737 programs to be produced so far. The extended 737 shares almost the same design as its smaller MAX 8 and MAX 9 counterparts, except that the MAX 10 includes a raised landing gear height. There is a reduced possibility of a tail strike during takeoff due to the MAX 10’s elongated fuselage. Compared to earlier generations of the 737 series, such as the 737NG series, the MAX 10 is more spacious, quieter, and offers better fuel efficiency. The approximate length of current 737s are all about the same, but the MAX 10 tops it out with a length of 143 feet, 5 feet longer than the next biggest 737. The extended 737 has a similar capacity to the 757 and is the closest replacement to it in Boeing’s fleet right now; the MAX 10 and 757 are both long-range, single-aisle planes and carry about the same number of passengers. The routes the 737 MAX 10 will serve will most likely be longer medium-haul flights. With its additional auxiliary fuel tank, the MAX 10 will also be capable of flying transatlantic.
The Boeing 737 MAX 10 has not been extremely successful with orders, and it has been selling at a much slower rate than its airbus competitor and has received far fewer orders than the MAX 8. As of now, there have only been 483 orders of the aircraft and only a handful of airlines that have ordered the MAX 10. An order of this size for a flagship narrow-body aircraft is considered relatively low, but it has only been the beginning. Here’s a list of airlines who have ordered:
- Aviation Capital Group
- BOC Aviation
- CALC China
- China Development Bank
- Copa Airlines
- Gol Transportes Aéreos
- Malaysia Airlines
- SkyUp Airlines
- TUI Group
- United Airlines
- VietJet Air
- Virgin Australia
The MAX 10’s largest customer as of now is United Airlines with an order of 100 aircraft. Sources have however speculated that United may be ordering an additional 100, or even 200, MAX 10 aircraft. Even with less than 500 aircraft on order, Boeing says that they are still confident in selling the MAX 10 and have some target customers in mind. One of them is Ireland-based carrier Ryanair, which has an almost full fleet of 737s. Southwest Airlines has also been brought into question, but they have stated that they don’t want any MAX 9 or MAX 10 aircraft. The first delivery of the MAX 10 is expected to be in 2023 with the launch customer being United Airlines.
With the traumatic crashes and groundings of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft a couple of years ago, the safety of Boeing’s MAX program remains in question. To further avoid the possibility of stalls, which downed the flights of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines, European carriers have requested a cockpit indication system that provides information on the “angle of attack” during flight. This system will give pilots a parameter of how steep they will be able to fly without stalling. During the ungrounding of the MAX aircraft last year, the FAA had stated that this problem was resolved by making improvements to the MCAS system and by educating pilots on how to turn off the MCAS system. With this new MAX aircraft, Boeing’s CEO states that the company is going to “take our time on this certification.”
The first flight of the Boeing 737 MAX 10 marks an important step in the certification of Boeing’s competitor to the A321neo. With this flight coming 7 months after the ungrounding of the MAX series, Boeing is rebounding from one of its most difficult periods ever. Although the 737 MAX 10 will most likely not sell as well as the a321neo or be as prosperous, the program will allow Boeing to resume its participation in the narrow-body aircraft market. Hopefully, the MAX 10 program will help stimulate the recovery of the max series and eventually eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the 737 MAX planes in the years to come.
Cover Image: Airwaysmag