Boeing delivers the first 737 MAX, to Malaysian carrier

SEATTLE — The Boeing Co. handed over the first 737 MAX to Malindo Air on Tuesday at Boeing Field.

The MAX family of airplanes is the fourth generation of Boeing’s single-aisle 737 jets. The delivery to the Malaysia-based airline came 50 years and five weeks after the original 737’s maiden flight on April 9, 1967.

Since then, Boeing has delivered nearly 9,500 of the workhorse airplanes. However, Airbus’ A320 and its upgraded A320neo have picked up a majority of orders in recent years.

Boeing developed the MAX in response to the A320neo. Eighty-seven airlines and other customers have ordered nearly 3,700 of the upgraded 737s, which feature new engines, avionics and other substantial improvements. The vast majority of those orders are for the 737 MAX 8, the version delivered to Malindo Air.

The larger 737 MAX 9 had its maiden flight in mid-April. The company also is developing the smaller MAX 7 and the MAX 200, a high-density version of the MAX 8. Boeing reportedly is considering making a MAX 10.

“The 737 MAX 8 is the best in its class, providing unmatched performance and economics for our airline customers,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes’s new president and CEO Kevin McAllister said in a news release. “This airplane will change the face of the single-aisle market.”

The 737 MAX “will become the centerpiece of our fleet,” Malindo Air CEO Chandran Rama Muthy said in the release.

Boeing plans to aggressively increase 737 MAX production from about one airplane a month now to more than 50 a month in 2019. That leaves little margin for error.

On May 10, the company temporarily grounded its fleet of 737 MAX test aircraft after the engine manufacturer CFM International discovered a problem with a key engine part. A couple days later, the planes were back in the air.

The single-aisle airplanes are assembled in Renton. Stow bins and other interior parts are made at Boeing’s Everett plant.

The aerospace giant began construction in early May on a finishing plant and delivery center in China. The plant will install interiors and paint 737s for delivery to Chinese customers. It will be able to handle as many as 100 planes a year, according to the company.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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