Boeing is upbeat about the early dispatch reliability of the 737 Max, indicating that it will comparable to that of the 737NG family.

"The company's target for the 737 Max family is to eventually match the 99.7% dispatch reliability of the NG," says Michael Teal, chief project engineer of the 737 Max programme.

"That is absolutely our target, and we expect to be very close to this right of the gate," he adds.

Teal made the remarks in a call with Asia-Pacific aviation media on the eve of the planned first flight of the 737-9 in Seattle.

He warns, however, that there is always the possibility of early issues.

"If you look at the things we saw in the flight test programme, everything we found we were able to fix. I don't have anything that creates a prediction that we'll be any less reliable, but history tells me there is something that I don't know that we will find. I won't be so bold as to say [the 737 Max 8] will be perfect coming out of the gate, but we expect it to be very close to the NG, and then immediately getting up that curve."

The company has been working with early customers of the 737-8, which will enter service in the coming weeks, to ensure they are ready to begin operating the aircraft. This involves discussing maintenance changes, getting spare parts in order, and also working with the pilot community.

"If you're an NG operator, you'll be able to take the Max and put it right alongside the NG, and operate away," says Teal.

The first airline to operate the 737 Max 8 will be Malaysia's Malindo Air, which will take up to four 737 Max 8s this year. At the recent Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, the carrier said that the first service would take place in the second quarter, and be on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route.

Other carriers due to take the Max this year include Norwegian and Southwest Air.

Source: Cirium Dashboard