The certification of the 737-7, the smallest 737 MAX, would have been a strong 2023 ending for Boeing. But this is now looking less likely.
In November this year, Boeing got some good news involving the 737-10. The aircraft got its type inspection authorization from the FAA, which means that it could start certification flights with FAA pilots and engineers.
The 737-10 was the last MAX variant to fly and will be the biggest and the last-ever 737 to enter service. As for the smallest MAX, the 737-7, its certification was expected imminently. For several months now we have known that Southwest Airlines, this variant’s launch customer, wasn’t expecting to start taking deliveries of it before next year.
However, Boeing expected the FAA to award the 737-7 with its certification before 2024, as we had seen. This estimate had come alongside Boeing’s expectation that 737-10 certification flights would start in 2023, which turned out to be the case.
737-7 Certification Hurdles?
But the latest news from the FAA is that it still doesn’t have a specific timetable for the certification of the 737-7. Boeing won’t comment on its previous estimates for the type’s certification or deliveries.
The FAA has stated that working on certifying the aircraft is ongoing – i.e. that it hasn’t stalled. One possible obstacle for the smallest MAX variant, as well as the 737-7, may be additional work on the design of its engine nacelles.
The FAA has identified a potential issue involving the engine anti-ice system in the 737 MAX family. So, the certification of both the 737-7 and the 737-10 may have to wait, until Boeing certifies changes to this system.
However, Boeing is reportedly trying to get a temporary exemption for this, that will allow the first aircraft to enter service with the current system – the same that the rest of the 737 MAX family is currently using. The FAA could issue this exemption before the end of the year.
But we don’t know if this is the only issue holding back the certification of the 737-7. Southwest has recently said that it expects to start operating its first 737-7s in October or November next year. That’s assuming that the aircraft gets its certification by the coming April.
Last October, Southwest increased its orders for the type by 108 aircraft. But the carrier had previously switched some orders to the larger 737-8, because of the smaller type’s certification delays.