Bolstered by its second major order for the 737-900ER, Boeing is gearing up for the start of assembly of the first aircraft with parts of the first fuselage coming together at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas and the loading of the first front wing spar in Renton due on 6 April.

“We’re looking to roll-out as planned in August, with first flight in early September,” says Boeing 737 chief project engineer Mike Delaney. US Certification is scheduled for February 2007 with first deliveries to Indonesian-based launch customer Lion Air due around April. The July 2005 Lion Air deal included 30 firm and 30 option, though the 29 March, $4 billion order for up to 60 737s from GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS) pushes firm orders for the -900ER to “60 plus”, says Boeing. Delivery of the firm orders begins in 2008. GECAS will take the last aircraft in 2010.

The -900ER development adds gross weight capability to the stretched -900 and gives “-800 type performance with 15 more passengers,” says Delaney. With a single-class capacity of 215, the -900ER will have a pair of Type II exit doors aft of the wing, plus provision for up to two auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo hold.

“We have just completed tests of the new mid-exit door interior/slide combination which were witnessed by the FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] and EASA [the European Aviation Safety Agency],” he adds. The tests, conducted at the Wall, New Jersey manufacturing site of Zodiac’s Air Cruisers and the makers of the escape slide system, were “not a full evacuation test,” but provided a thorough evaluation of the re-configurable exit area with three rows of ‘passengers’ says Delaney.

The exit door area can be activated to boost exit limit capacity from 189 to 215 and was tested “with a narrower door (than the typical Type II door), and the overhead bins in place and with the aisle width at its minimum.” In normal activated mode, the escape exit door is accessible with provision for an adjacent flight attendant station, a two-seat row and a gap in the overhead bins.

The -900ER also incorporates a redesigned flattened rear pressure bulkhead, the first fatigue test article of which is due to arrive in Renton in mid-April. The flat bulkhead, which creates additional cabin volume, will be standard on the -900ER and optional on the -800 which will still be offered with the conventional dome structure. The first flat bulkhead is due to enter service first on a -800 with Japan Air Lines. The new bulkhead will not be offered on the -600 or -700.

Boeing plans to hold a major certification and build plan review meeting for the newly launched 737-700ER on 18 April as preparations get underway to develop the 10,200km (5,510nm) range variant. The -700ER, a commercial derivative of the Boeing Business Jet, is scheduled to enter service with launch operator All Nippon Airways in the first quarter of 2007.


Source: Flight International