Boeing’s web site indicates that the commercial aerospace producer has begun the prototype build of its first 737 MAX jetliner, a key milestone in upgrading the product family. The web site features an informative video indicating how the wing is assembled as well as this photo of the loaded 737 MAX wing skin panels and stringers within the new panel assembly line that uses automation to drill holes and install fasteners in the upper and lower wing panels.
The 737 model lineup is Boeing’s most important volume airliner in generating cash flow and profits and has been in continuous production since 1966. The 737 MAX was designed to incorporate the latest technology which includes CFM International LEAP-1B engines, advanced technology winglets and other improvements. The new single-aisle airplane is marketed as delivering 20 percent lower fuel use than the first Next-Generation 737s and the lowest operating costs in its class. To date, the 737 MAX has attracted 2,720 orders from 57 customers worldwide.
The GM of the 737 MAX program indicates that the wing assembly for the first test aircraft began production on May 29, as planned several years ago. The prototype aircraft is scheduled to undergo final assembly in September with its initial test flight planned in early 2016.
The announced launch customer is Southwest Airlines, which anticipates delivery in the third quarter of 2017.