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November 15, 2012

Boeing 737 MAX Reaches New Design Milestone

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The Boeing 737 MAX loses its nose bump in new renderings. (Rendering by Boeing)

Boeing has completed the initial phase of design work for its upcoming 737 MAX narrowbody airliner, reaching a milestone the company calls “Firm Concept.”

The milestone essentially means designers have finished painting the broad strokes of the 737 MAX and can now move on to hammering out the more granular details. Boeing says the program remains on schedule for a completely finalized design by mid-2013 and first delivery by 2017.

“The program has achieved this development milestone by defining the significant changes needed to deliver the performance we’ve committed to our customers,” said Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager 737 program, in a statement. “The team has a firm plan in place to incorporate all the changes necessary to realize a 13 percent fuel-use reduction within the scope and schedule of the program.”

New renderings published Thursday showed one highly visible change from earlier renderings of the aircraft is the absence of a bump protruding from the lower nose of the plane which covered the nose landing gear. Through wind tunnel testing, designers reshaped the entire nose to improve the plane’s aerodynamic profile. “Removal of the bump demonstrates how far our design work has progressed,” said Michael Teal, chief project engineer, 737 MAX, in a statement.

Boeing also said it had developed a plan for building the 737 MAX in which the first planes will be constructed on a dedicated assembly line before being integrated into the existing 737 line in Renton, Washington.

First announced in 2011, the 737 MAX promises a 13 percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to current 737 models through the use of new CFM LEAP-1B engines and improvements in aerodynamics and weight reduction.

A total of 878 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are on firm order from ALAFCO, Alaska Airlines, Air Lease Corporation, Avolon, GECAS, GOL Airlines, Lion Air, Norwegian, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Australia and unidentified customers. American Airlines has also committed to buying 100 of the jets.

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