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Boeing unveils the 737 MAX 8

Boeing rolled out its first 737 MAX 8 on Tuesday (December 8), the updated version of its 737 aircraft stalwart that has been the industry’s best selling aircraft and the backbone of many airline’s narrowbody fleets for nearly half a century.

At a ceremony held at its Renton, Washington facility, the aircraft emerged from the paint hangar with all the classic 737 design details minus a few details, such as new split winglets designed for increased range and fuel efficiency and the fact it is powered by the new LEAP-1B engine.   

Seen as a response to Airbus’ A320neo which will enter Qatar Airways’ fleet by the end of this year, the first 737 MAX 8 is scheduled for its first flight in early 2016, before the first customer in Q3 2017 to launch customer Southwest Airlines. Given the success of its predecessor, it goes without saying that Boeing will have high hopes for the next generation version.

Matching up to the orders its A320neo rival has amassed – 4,443 to date – and making a dent in Airbus’ 60 per cent market share of the fuel efficient aircraft segment presents quite the challenge.  

But this challenge is one Boeing is seemingly comfortable with. 787 MAX programme head Keith Leverkuhn puts Airbus’ lead in the market down to the A320neo launching a year before., and says the US OEM is “very comfortable with how the market is settling out.”

There is also still much speculation in which direction Boeing will take production of the 737. It is known that the aircraft manufacturer will take production from its current level of 42 aircraft per month to 52 by 2018, but Boeing has yet to be drawn on whether it will match Airbus’ plan to produced 60 A320neos a month by 2019.

Whatever happens, the impending arrival of the 737 MAX 8 into the narrowbody market will make quite the impact.
While much has been made of the widebody battles between the 787 and the A350, perhaps the most interesting battle of the coming decades lies in narrowbody aircraft.

While much has been made of the widebody battles between the 787 and the A350, perhaps the most interesting battle of the coming decades lies in narrowbody aircraft.

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