Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 completes 2-1/2 hour first flight

The plane, which rolled out of the Renton factory last month, cruised back and forth across Washington state before landing at Boeing Field.

The first flight of Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 took off at 10:52 a.m. Thursday, piloted by Boeing chief deputy test pilot Capt. Christine Walsh, and headed north over Lake Washington into partly-cloudy skies.

The plane, which rolled out of Boeing’s Renton factory March 7, flew across Washington state for about 2 hours and 45 minutes before landing at Seattle’s Boeing Field, where its flight testing will be based.

The flight covered more than 800 miles and reached a top altitude of approximately 23,500 feet and a top speed of 328 knots, according to the tracking site Flight­Aware.

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the original 737’s first flight.

This version follows the MAX 8, which by next month is expected to be delivered to its first airline customer, probably Southwest.

The MAX 9 model is almost 9 feet longer than the MAX 8’s 129 feet 8 inches, and it carries 178 passengers in two classes compared with the MAX 8’s 162 in a similar configuration.

Boeing last month also affirmed its intention to launch a slightly larger MAX 10 variant — seating around 188 passengers in two classes — with the aim of better competing with the Airbus A321neo.

Boeing’s new 737 MAX family as a whole trails well behind Airbus’ new A320neo family. With almost 1,400 orders for the A321neo alone, Airbus has a total of just over 5,000 neos ordered, compared with about 3,600 MAXs.

Boeing calls the 737 MAX its fastest-selling airplane, although it does not break out its MAX sales by model.

It’s clear the MAX 9 has sold poorly compared to the MAX 8 or the A321neo. Some airplane buyers have said the prospect of a MAX 10 has clouded the picture for the MAX 9.

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