Boeing 737-7 Certification: What’s Going On?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | May 31, 2023

What is going on with the certification of the 737-7, the smaller MAX variant? After months of silence, Boeing offered some answers today.

In 2022, most 737 MAX-related headlines involved the 737-10, the newest and largest variant of the family. This was because of a deadline regarding standards for cockpit crew alerting and notification systems. If the remaining 737 MAX variants didn’t get FAA approval by then, the agency would have to approve them only after more modifications, to meet the more stringent standards.

Southwest is the largest 737-7 customer, to replace its many 737-700s. Image: Boeing

When this stricter requirement originally came through (late 2020) the expectation was that it wouldn’t affect the certification of the 737-7 and the 737-10. The standards would only apply to newer aircraft. For this reason, Boeing eventually got a waiver for the 737-7 and 737-10, and the work to get them in service is ongoing.


Documentation Requirements

What makes the certification of the 737-7, in particular, a bit perplexing, is… elapsed time. Unlike the bigger 737-10, the 737-7 has been undergoing flight testing since 2018 – BEFORE the 737 MAX grounding. About a year before, actually.

Boeing 737-7 Certification: What’s Going On?
Photo: Steve Lynes, CC BY 2.0

When the FAA ungrounded the MAX in late 2020, many believed that the certification of the smaller variant would be a matter of weeks. Obviously, this didn’t happen. The only 737 MAX model that Boeing certified since the ungrounding is the 737-8200, a high-density 737-8 sub-variant.

Boeing has two 737-7 prototypes as part of the type’s certification program. Both of them first flew early in 2018! Boeing even used these jets for the flight testing that lead to the ungrounding of its 737-8 and 737-9 variants. After flight testing, both these jets will end up with Southwest Airlines. The reason the certification of the 737-7 is taking so long, is because of new documentation requirements.

Allegiant is another 737-7 customer. Image: Allegiant


737-7 and 737-10 Certification Expectations

The above comes from Mike Fleming, Boeing’s senior vice president for commercial development programs. He added that the manufacturer now has to produce a significantly higher amount of certification documentation than before the grounding. And it now seems that Boeing and the FAA are yet to streamline this process.

Boeing 737-7 Certification: What’s Going On?
Photo: Steve Lynes, CC BY 2.0

Boeing still has to hand some remaining certification documents to the FAA, which should happen soon. Beyond the 737-7, Fleming says that Boeing and the FAA should soon start certification flights for the 737-10. Previously, the expectation was that the smaller aircraft would get its certification early this year. The larger variant should have followed before 2024.

Now, the certification of the 737-7 looks set to come in the last few months of 2023. Southwest Airlines, the 737-7’s biggest customer, has already said that its plans to put the type into service could have to wait until early 2024. The 737-10 has more orders, from more customers. And as time goes by, more questions will be asked about the delivery schedule of these aircraft.


Check out these latest videos from Mentour Pilot and Mentour Now on YouTube!

Leave the first comment