Boeing has finalised the design of the fourth major member of the Next Generation 737 family, the -900, which is due to enter service with Alaska Airlines in April 2001.The 180-seat aircraft will be stretched by 2.6m (8.5ft) overall, taking it to 42.1m in length - or roughly 2.7m longer than the -800. The added length will be made up by a 1m extension aft and a 1.6m stretch forward.

The skin panels of the forward section 43 will grow from 4.9m to 6.3m, while the aft section 46 will be extended from 4.9m to 5.6m. The longer fuselage will come from Wichita, Kansas in one piece, as with the other Next Generation models. The company has cleared the route for any transport problems by running a full-scale metal mock-up along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway.

The first fuselage will arrive at Renton in May 2000 and be assembled in time for a planned first flight in August 2000. Certification is expected from the US Federal Aviation Administration and European Joint Aviation Authorities around March 2001. Forty 737-900s have been ordered to date by Alaska Airlines, Continental, KLM and Korean Airlines.

Source: Flight International