Boeing plans to begin flight testing the 737-900 in August using only a single aircraft, representing a first for a new or derivative Boeing commercial model certification effort.

"We will have one aircraft for flight tests and one for back-up," says 737-900 programme manager, Jon Robinson. The second -900 will perform a "nominal" 20h ground test and will also be the first with a complete interior. The aircraft is the latest and largest derivative of the Next Generation 737 family, of which 500 have been delivered.

Boeing's decision to use only a single flight test aircraft is based on lessons learned with the previous three Next Generation 737 models, the -600, -700 and -800 derivatives. Robinson adds that the same experience has enabled it to stay on the original timescale despite the recent 40-day engineers' strike. "We've been able to meet or beat the current schedule, and we are under budget by a significant amount," he adds.

The first -900 fuselage arrived at Renton from Wichita, Kansas on 27 April. Wing-body join is set for mid-May and roll-out for 23 July. The first flight is due in August, when a seven-month flight test effort starts before deliveries begin to launch customer Alaska Airlines in April next year.

Source: Flight International