Boeing revealed on Wednesday that it has received approval from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to begin certification test flights for the 737 MAX 10, the largest variant of the family of narrow-body jets.
The authorization had been awaited for months and means that the certification process will enter its final stretch. FAA pilots will fly alongside Boeing crews to verify operational and safety procedures from now on.
“The 737-10 has been cleared by the FAA to begin certification flight testing, a significant milestone as we work to get the airplane certified to enter passenger service,” Boeing said on its social media accounts.
Boeing executives had communicated the FAA’s position to employees hours earlier in a letter.
“This is a significant milestone as we work to get the 737-10, the largest airplane in the 737 MAX family, certified to enter passenger service with operators around the world,” wrote Mike Fleming, Senior Vice President for development programs, Ed Clark , Chief Engineer of the 737 program, and Wayne Tygert, Vice President General Manager.
Extended landing gear
The 737-10 version, as it is also called, is a response to the A321neo, Airbus’ most successful commercial aircraft.
Although it does not have the same range or passenger capacity (230 seats compared to more than 240 for the A321neo), the 737 MAX 10 is praised by several customers for making it possible to meet the demand on more congested routes, while maintaining fleet commonality with other versions.
To make the variant viable, Boeing had to develop a landing gear extension system on the ground due to the proximity of the rear part of the fuselage during takeoffs.
When at airports, the 737-10 is “taller” than other 737s, but after taking off the landing gear “shrinks” to fit into the same family compartment, avoiding a more complex structural change.
Boeing plans to put the 737-10 into service from the end of 2024, but says the certification program will proceed at the necessary pace and safely. As of October, the company had 963 firm orders for the model.