Tainted debut: Three Boeing entrants in 2019

This year, three big debuts were expected from Boeing: the roll out of its state-of-the-art 777X series, decision on the much anticipated NMA jetliner and the first delivery of the newest member from its 737 MAX family. Instead, the U.S. manufacturer is now in reputational crisis, after safety concerns triggered world-wide groundings of MAX jets.

On March 13, 2019, Boeing was supposed to publically roll out the first 777-9X at their Everett facility in Seattle. After Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crash three days prior to the event, the company indefinitely postponed the public ceremony, instead quietly revealing it for employees.

A successor of ageing Boeing 777-200LR and 777-300ER models, the 777X is regarded as a competitor to Airbus A350XWB family and, sometimes, even the A380. The aircraft is to come in two versions: the first model introduced is going to be the 777-9, followed by 777-8.

The 777-9 can seat 400 to 425 passengers in a standard configuration and offer a range of 7,600 nautical miles (14,075 km). In November 2018, Boeing announced it completed the “final body join” of the new aircraft, connecting the nose, mid and aft sections to a 252 feet long (77 meters from nose to tail) giant airliner – the longest passenger jet the manufacturer has ever made.

Boeing revealed it had completed the first 777X ground test airplane in October 2018. At the time, the first flight test plane had also received its new CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer) wing. The massive General Electric GE9X engines were fitted on the first plane in January 2019.

The first flight test of the 777-9 is expected to take place later this year, while the first delivery – in 2020.

Anticipated NMA decision

Boeing is yet to formally commit to producing new, middle of the market aircraft known as the NMA or, sometimes, 797. Some previous reports have indicated that the company’s executives are “closing in” on the decision and the 797 program might be reviewed as soon as by the end of March 2019.

In January 2019 reports appeared that the industry giant already has over 1,000 people working on the 797 design, while the program itself is “accelerating towards an internal launch around the end of 1Q 2019”.

The new jetliner is the company’s attempt to focus on the overlooked “middle market”. NMA designed for the 8 to 10-hour travel, on routes such as New York to Los Angeles in the U.S., or medium-range flights connecting the U.S., say, Chicago, to cities in Europe. Thus, it could potentially open up 30,000 new routes and challenge today’s system in which long haul flights are usually carried from major hubs instead of point-to-point routes from secondary cities.

Viewed as potential replacement for aging Boeing 757 or even 767, the new aircraft is already anticipated by some airlines. Earlier in the month, Delta Airlines CEO admitted that the U.S. legacy carrier is “very interested in it” and could potentially opt for as many as 200 NMAs over the next decade.

The shortest member of MAX family

The now infamous Boeing 737 MAX family is due to have four members in the upcoming future. Besides 737 MAX 8 and 9 that are already in some airlines’ fleets, the MAX 10 and 7 are still in the making. But the shortest sibling of the jet family, the 737 MAX 7, is (or, at least, was expected) to enter service in 2019.

Initially, Boeing 737 MAX 7 was supposed to be delivered for the launch customer Southwest Airlines (LUV) in January 2019. However, the U.S. low cost giant is believed to have postponed the deliveries until 2023-2024, giving up the queue for the Canadian low cost carrier WestJet. First five aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2019.

Since the start of production on the first Boeing 737 MAX 7, it took four years until the aircraft finally rolled out of Boeing’s Renton facility in the U.S. in February 2018. Not long after, on March 16, 2018, the MAX 7 successfully completed its first flight and began several months of flight trials leading to certification and delivery.

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