The Boeing 737-600 had a successful 2h 28min first flight from Renton on 22 January on a day when firm orders for Next Generation aircraft climbed to 811, with the sale of 59 more to launch-customer Southwest Airlines.

The -600's take-off weight was a relatively light 50,395kg, or roughly 14,750kg below the maximum take-off weight. For take-off, the CFM56-7 turbofans were each rated at 98kN (22,000lb) thrust, the maximum offered for the -600. The basic -600 is offered with an 82kN rated engine.

The highest altitude attained during the test sortie was 21,000ft (6,400m) and maximum speed was 250kt (460km/h). Boeing says that the flight included tests of the landing gear, engine handling and high-lift devices with an "approach to stall up to and including initial buffet". The only problem reported was a high pitched frequency emanating from an aerodynamic seal covering the wing-to-body join.

The aircraft landed at Boeing Field where it will be based with the other two test -600s for the certification effort. This is expected to last seven months and cover up to 550h of flight tests before the planned delivery of the first aircraft to -600 launch customer SAS.

Southwest, meanwhile, chose the first flight date to announce orders for a further 59 737-700s, taking its total firm order commitment to the type to 129. This follows an order at the end of 1997 for seven additional 737-700s.

The bulk of the new order, some 47 aircraft, are converted options from the initial launch order, while the additional 12 are new orders. The first 47 -700s will be delivered in 1999-2004, while the extra aircraft will be slotted into the schedule between 2000 and 2004. The airline has also obtained an additional 42 options.

Source: Flight International