Boeing 737 Max 8 Reaches Firm Configuration

 - July 23, 2013, 2:35 PM
Program schedules call for the first 737 Max 8 to fly in 2015 and gain certification in the third quarter of 2017. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing has completed firm configuration of the 737 Max 8 on schedule and in time for expected first delivery in third quarter of 2017, the company announced Tuesday. The milestone marks the conclusion of the major trade studies that define the capabilities of the three-member 737 Max family and allows engineers to start detailed design.

“We continue to follow our disciplined process to ensure that we have completed all the requirements for the development stage of the program and are ready to begin the detailed design phase,” said 737 Max chief project engineer Michael Teal.

As engineers complete and release detailed designs, production can begin. Boeing expects to start final assembly of the 737 Max 8 by the end of 2015.

The manufacturer announced at last month’s Paris Air Show that it had shifted its 737 Max schedules to reflect first delivery of the Max 8 to launch customer Southwest Airlines as early as six months ahead of the original plan. As a result, schedules for the Max 9 and Max 7 would also shift by at least a quarter.

“The risks are understood; they’re being managed effectively and we have no serious technical issues to deal with,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president and general manager Scott Fancher declared in Paris. “We continue to follow our knowledge points through the development process and we have an executable plan. Testing, improvement workshops, and solid early data have allowed us to validate the airplane’s performance and move the schedule forward.”

Although he wouldn’t go into detail about how the company planned for the eventuality, Fancher noted that Boeing had anticipated the possibility of accelerating development from “Day One” of the program. He also declined to talk about the potential for derailing plans to switch production from the 737NG to the Max late in the decade, but insisted the shift would result in no “incremental” increase to the risk to the system.

Wind tunnel testing has shown that the Max will burn 13 percent less fuel than the 737-800 consumes, due to the introduction of new CFM Leap-1B turbofans and aerodynamic improvements including so-called advanced technology winglets. The winglets, which feature upward and downward-directed composite airfoils joined with a metallic center piece, would contribute at least 1.5 percent, according to 737 Max vice president of marketing Joe Ozimek. Natural laminar flow benefits derived from the new winglets will add another .3 to .4 percent, while a tail reconfiguration improves fuel burn by another 1 percent.