RENTON, Wash. – One year after Boeing’s super-fuel-efficient 737 MAX 8 jet made its aerial debut, its bigger sibling – the MAX 9 – is just weeks away from its rollout.
The 737 MAX 9 nearly 9 feet longer and should be able to carry up to 20 more passengers than the first MAX variant to roll down the runway. The assembly process takes advantage of new technologies, including a streamlined robotic system to drill the holes and screw in the bolts on the plane’s wings.
Boeing’s engineers have come up with new tricks for putting the planes together and testing them. But the biggest difference between getting the MAX 8 and the MAX 9 ready for prime time has to do with human factors, says Keith Leverkuhn, Boeing’s vice president and general manager for the 737 MAX program.
“I don’t think with respect to the design, the supply chain, there’s anything like that that gives us pause on what we ought to be doing on the Dash 9,” he told reporters at Boeing’s Renton plant on Feb. 13 during a sneak peek at the first MAX 9 and the assembly lines where it’s being built.
“But one thing that I would expect is that as we move through the flight tests of the past year, there are internal efficiencies that we should be able to gain,” Leverkuhn said. “Can we be sure that we’ve got the right team in place, with what I call full kits: parts, plans, tools ready to go?”