The largest Boeing 737 built to date, the 160-189 seat 737-800, has been cleared to enter service with its European launch customers, following certification by the Joint Aviation Authorities.

The new variant gained US Federal Aviation Administration type certification on 13 March. However, service entry was dependent on JAA approval as the model's two launch customers are both European based - Hapag-Lloyd of Germany and Transavia of Holland.

JAA approval was received on 9 April, and Hapag-Lloyd is scheduled to take delivery of its first 737-800 before the end of this month, while Transavia's first is due at the end of May, over a month later than initially scheduled. Hapag-Lloyd will use the 737-800 to replace its smaller 737-400s and -500s.

Flight testing of the 737-800, which began in June 1997, involved three test aircraft flying some 740h during 760 flights. To gain JAA approval for a 189 passenger exit limit, Boeing had to develop and install a new type of overwing exit .

Scandinavia's SAS will be the first airline to take delivery of the next 737 model, the 108 seat -600, during the third quarter of 1998, while Alaska Airlines will receive the first example of the stretched 737-900 in 2001.

Source: Flight International