Boeing locks in 737 Max 8 configuration

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Boeing has locked in the final design of the 737 Max 8 and started a three-year countdown for development and manufacturing of the re-engined single-aisle.

Completing the firm configuration of the first variant of the Max family freezes the overall specifications and allows suppliers to begin detailed design of the individual parts and systems, such as the new dual-feather winglet and relofted tail cone.

Final assembly of the first flight test aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2015. A one-year flight test phases begins in 2016, with first delivery to launch customer Southwest Airlines in the third quarter of 2017.

"We continue to follow our disciplined process to ensure that we have completed all the requirements for the development stage of the programme and are ready to begin the detailed design phase," says Michael Teal, 737 Max chief project engineer.

In June, Boeing announced that the 737 Max entry into service would be accelerated as much as six months, narrowing the gap between it and the debut of the re-engined Airbus A320neo in mid-2015.

The A320neo family has maintained a strong lead over the 737 Max with a 61% market share of firm orders to date.

Boeing promises the 737 Max will be 8% more fuel efficient per seat, although Airbus counters the measurement is based on an unrealistically short, 500nm (926km) segment.

Most of the improvement for both aircraft is derived from new engine technology. Boeing selected the CFM International Leap-1B turbofan for the 737 Max. Other key improvements are the addition of the new winglet, streamlined tail cone, fly-by-wire spoilers and an extended nose gear.

Boeing also is adopting 787-like large format displays made by Rockwell Collins for the 737 Max, in anticipation of additional information requirements as next generation air traffic control systems are implemented. Another improvement is the electronic bleed air system for the engines, which aims to improve the reliability record of bleed air extraction systems with a digital regulator.

Boeing also reveals that the 737 Max will benefit from new advances in connectivity, providing more wireless access to both entertain passengers and provide ground maintenance staff with more real-time information to make operational decisions.