Marred only by a 90-minute takeoff delay and “a couple of squawks” in flight, the newest iteration of Boeing’s iconic 737, the Max 9, made its initial flight over Washington state on April 13.
“The initial flight delay had nothing to do with the aircraft,” said Boeing marketing vice president Randy Tinseth. “We had trouble with the downlink for some of the test equipment on the ground and had to troubleshoot that before we could take off.”
Once off the ground, the first Max 9 flight lasted one hour and 42 minutes as the aircraft, piloted by Capt. Christine Walsh and her copilot, Capt. Ed Wilson, crisscrossed Washington at an altitude of 24,000 feet and at a top speed of 240 knots.
During the initial flight, Walsh and Wilson shut down and restarted each of the Max 9’s CFM Leap-1B engines, verified trim attitudes and stability and went through a number of flap and gear transitions to verify the aircraft’s handling capabilities.
Asked to identify an example of the squawks, Wilson referenced a minor communications problem. “One of the radios was pretty weak,” he said.
The aircraft departed Renton Municipal Airport on a downwind takeoff and landed at Boeing Field in a strong crosswind. Walsh said her years of flying 737s came in handy at that point.
“There was a 22 knot direct crosswind,” she told reporters shortly after landing. “And as you know, that involves a lot of control inputs. But it flew just like a 737.”
The 737 Max program is slightly ahead of schedule. The Max 9 first flight occurred about a week earlier than Boeing initially anticipated.
In the coming year, the Max 7—the smallest of the Max line—and the Max 200 variants will roll off the Boeing assembly line in Renton and, like the Max 9, undergo flight testing at locations around the world.
As for the Max 9, Boeing Max program vice president Keith Leverkuhn said the company expected to complete flight testing by the end of the year. Plans call for the first production model to go to Indonesian low-fare carrier LionAir.