Boeing is preparing the Next Generation 737-700 for its final test for the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), with certification now anticipated by the end of December. The aircraft has also had a boost from a major deal with Argentina's LAPA.

Boeing says that the aircraft passed the first JAA test of the new overwing emergency-exit door on 6 November, which involved repeated cabin evacuations with groups of up to 25 people. The next test will take place after a flight with the aircraft still slightly pressurised.

The company has meanwhile set 26 November as the hand-over date for the first 737-700 to launch customer Southwest Airlines. The first aircraft is in refurbishment in readiness for delivery to Southwest, while another test aircraft was due to have a "first-of-model" acceptance flight test for the US Federal Aviation Administration at the end of November.

Another of the test fleet has returned from a short demonstration tour of Brazil and Chile, in South America, while a third is undergoing cold-weather extended-range twin operations tests in Fairbanks, Alaska.

At the same time, LAPA has revealed that it plans to introduce 14 737-700s on lease from Boeing, starting in December 1998. The airline uses 11 Boeing 737-200s on its Argentinian domestic network and will add a further four on lease by early 1998.

The airline, which also operates two Boeing 757s, says that it is considering the acquisition of six more 737-200s.

LAPA has also contracted to lease two 737-700s from International Lease Finance, on 12-year terms, for delivery in 1999. The airline says that it needs the new aircraft to meet growth and enable the airline to boost its market share from 30% to 40%.

Source: Flight International