The MAX-10, largest 737 ever, could be days away from having its first flight. Boeing recently started taxi tests with the prototype.
Boeing’s rollout ceremony for the 737 MAX-10 was a muted affair. It was back in the 22nd of November of 2019. All MAX aircraft were still stuck on the ground. And despite Boeing’s statements earlier in 2019, by November it was clear that the jet would not fly before 2020. Among it all, the rollout of the MAX-10 had the air of a company morale boost, more than anything else.
Fast forward to the 20th of May 2021. A year and a half plus a pandemic later, Boeing’s 737 MAX-10 was out of its hangar again. This time it was performing high-speed taxi tests. In general, such tests are the prelude to a first flight. According to Aviation Week, Boeing said that this first flight will take place “in the following days”.
And yet the aircraft shows a lot of promise. In a single-class configuration, it will seat 130 passengers. The 737 MAX-10 is 64 inches (1.63 metres) longer than the MAX-9. This gives the MAX-10 three extra rows, i.e. 18 more seats. Among its differences from the rest of the 737 line, the jet has a new design of main landing gear. This design allows the pivot point to move slightly to the rear. And this, in turn, gives the aircraft some useful extra clearance on rotation.
The Competition of the 737 MAX-10
Some have compared the 737 MAX-10 to the A321XLR. That’s not what the plane is for. It doesn’t have clever extra fuel tanks, to play the role of a 757-200. Its role is to compete with the A321neo. And this is something it should do well. Boeing claims that the MAX-10 will have “the lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle airplane ever produced”. The manufacturer designed the MAX-10 to be an ideal low-cost carrier plane. Several low-cost carriers have shown interest for it already.
But it isn’t just low-cost carriers that placed orders for the aircraft. Operators like Copa, flyDubai and several lessors have orders for it. Most notably, United Airlines ordered 100 of them! So far, Boeing has over 550 orders for the 737 MAX-10. And incidentally, this means that so far it has sold about as well as the A321XLR – comparable or not. The XLR is certainly not quite as niche an aircraft as many suspected when it was announced. But perhaps neither is the MAX-10.
However, Boeing still needs to certify the jet. And this means getting the 737 MAX-10’s flight testing underway. The manufacturer hopes to have the aircraft ready for service in 2023. Until then, they will likely need to introduce more changes to the 737 MAX line, in the aftermath of the aircraft’s grounding.
Some airlines are adopting a wait-and-see attitude towards the 737 MAX-10. This is in part because of the prospect of a new mid-size aircraft from Boeing. However, even with substantial advances in manufacturing, such a jet would take years to enter the market. Not to mention its likely challenges, from Airbus. So the MAX-10 should see its share of users, until then.