Today in a ceremony held in Renton Washington, Boeing celebrated the completion of the final assembly of the first 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The completed aircraft was rolled out from the assembly facility before a group of internal employees and supplier representatives.
This new single-aisle aircraft incorporates new CFM International LEAP-1B aircraft engines, advanced technology winglets and other technology improvements focused on increased efficiency and performance. According to Boeing, this new version of the 737 product family will deliver a 20 percent lower fuel usage that the first generation of the Next Generation 737 family and a claimed 8 percent per seat reduction in operating costs over the competing Airbus A320neo. That competing aircraft was launched 18 months ago.
According to a report published by The Wall Street Journal, (Paid subscription required) Boeing elected a lower key event to celebrate this accomplishment, as opposed to previous first final assembly events such as the 787 Dreamliner. According to the report, the lack of fanfare highlights the need for Boeing to under-promise and over-deliver on its most profitable family of aircraft: “Boeing and its shareholders cannot afford for the 737 Max to misfire in similar fashion.”
Thus far there has been one reported supply chain challenge which concerned the advanced titanium based engine thrust reverser, which Boeing flagged in the production pilot cycle and has subsequently modified the design and selected a new supplier.
The maiden flight of the new 737 Max is scheduled for early 2016 with initial delivery to launch airline Southwest Airlines scheduled for Q3-2017, after completion of in-flight testing and FAA certification.
With a current order backlog approaching 3000 aircraft, Boeing must meet its time-to-market output objectives for all of its aircraft families. The 737 has special significance as the highest volume potential and thus many eyes remain on this program.