Boeing is preparing to roll-out the first production 737 MAX despite having only just started its flight testing programme. The aircraft is scheduled to emerge from Boeing’s Renton final assembly facility before the end of April as is part of a plan designed to ensure trouble-free manufacturing and assembly ramp-up.
The jet, the fifth example off the new central production line established at Renton, will be stored without engines alongside several other completed airframes until test and certification of the variant is completed ahead of deliveries starting next year.
Boeing said the move is designed to provide production workers with a chance to gain valuable experience on building the new variant. It will also give the US manufacturer a buffer period in which to make any late changes, discovered during the flight testing, to this initial batch of aircraft prior to service entry.
Keith Leverkuhn, 737 MAX VP and GM, said: “The early build strategy is a delicate balance between getting a head start on production line efficiency while avoiding production of too many airframes before deliveries can begin. We are building MAX inventory in 2016, the factory is at 42 aircraft per month rate and that includes a small number of MAX that we will build and sit on until flight testing and certification is achieved.”
With flight testing going to plan and assembly of the initial airframes progressing through production smoothly, the company said it is quietly optimistic that deliveries may be possible earlier than the official July 2017 target date.