Boeing has just announced commencement on manufacturing of the 737 MAX range of planes with first service flights due to take place in 2016. This first stage includes the production of the first 737 MAX fuselage stringers at Boeing Fabrication Integrated AeroStructures in Auburn, Wash. Once completed they will be sent, according to Boeing, to “Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan. for incorporation into the first 737 MAX fuselage. From there the fuselage will be shipped to Boeing’s Renton, Wash. facility where Boeing employees will build the 737 MAX. The program is on track to begin final assembly of the first 737 MAX in 2015.”
It was the Airbus decision to proceed with the 320neo in 2010 that prompted Boeing to stop dithering with their intended replacement for the 737 and start in earnest with the creation of the 737 MAX. Driven by the need to increase fuel economy, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, and be competitive with the Airbus 320neo, the go ahead was given for the 737 MAX in August 2011 in the form of the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 which were to be based on the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900ER, respectively. At that time the intention was to produce a plane that was 16% more fuel-efficient than the Airbus 320 and still 4% more efficient than the new Airbus 320neo. While Boeing announced in December 2013 that an internal audit had forecasted a 14% lower fuel burn than current 737NG series aircraft, more interesting news was to come last month when Boeing announced a fourth version of the MAX, the 737-200
The 737-200 is to be based on the new MAX 8, but with the capability of carrying 200 passengers, being 20% more economical to run than the current 737s and surprisingly, it will have operating costs that are 5% lower than the proposed MAX 8. As of September 2014 the MAX range has firm orders for 2,295 units, while Airbus has orders in excess of 3,000 units for the 320neo.