When I fly for personal reasons, I will often think of a possible story angle before my flight. Sometimes I find one, sometimes I do not. During a recent trip from Seattle (SEA) to Houston (IAH), I flew on an Alaska Airlines 737. I thought what possible story angle could I come up with that could be unique when I am flying another Alaska 737 out of Seattle? I figured that this would just be a flight that I would enjoy and no story to be told (which is not always a bad thing).
As I sat at the gate, waiting to board, I looked at my flight details. Yes, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not take a closer look at what aircraft I was flying on earlier, but that allowed me to have a nice little surprise. I wasn’t just flying on any Boeing 737, but a 737 MAX 9. That was important to me, because this was my first MAX flight… game on.
I quickly changed from “civilian mode” (a name I use when flying as a passenger, not doing a story) to “blogger mode.” I started to think about what photos I wanted to take and how. Make sure I took good notes (I often forget in the giddiness), and not look too much like a total nerd in front of other passengers.
As I boarded the plane, I wondered how different the MAX would be. It was still using the same fuselage as the 737-100 that launched service in 1968, so would a typical passenger even notice? Would I notice? I was excited (actually more giddy) to find out.
The first 737MAX-9 with Seattle in the background – Photo: Boeing
Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 took to the skies for the first time on April 13 from Boeing’s plant in Renton, Washington. I had the privilege of being able to watch it take off with fellow aviation geeks on a hill overlooking the airfield. After takeoff, my photographer and I headed to the Boeing Delivery Center at Boeing Field in Seattle, where the plane would land that afternoon.
The Boeing 737 MAX 9 flies for the first time – Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson | AirlineReporter
As we waited for Captain Christine Walsh and First Officer Ed Wilson to complete their tasks in the air, Boeing treated us to boxed lunches. As we ate, Boeing Vice President/Chief Engineer and Deputy Program Manager for the 737 MAX program, Michael Teal, talked to us about the airplane and the 737 MAX family.
Boeing is planning to go with a dual feather design that they are calling the “Advanced Technology” winglet (more on the name later). They are expecting the new winglet will save an additional 1.5% fuel burn versus the one currently on the 737.
737 MAX winglet video from Boeing
“The Advanced Technology winglet demonstrates Boeing’s continued drive to improve fuel burn and the corresponding value to the customer. With this technology and others being built into the MAX, we will extend our leadership,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Boeing states in their press release, that the 737 MAX will provide an 18% fuel burn advantage over the current Airbus A320. Unfortunately, they fail to compare the MAX to the new Airbus A320neo.
According to Airbus, the A320neo will have a 15% better fuel burn advantage over the current A320, so it appears the 737 MAX and A320neo will most likely be quite competitive to one another. I expect that these numbers, for both aircraft, will continue to change during development, so don’t get attached to them. It is safe to say that the 737 and A320 will continue to be direct competitors.
The Boeing 737 MAX 7, 8 and 9 showing off the winglets selected. Image from Boeing.
I am all for improving the 737 and I love following the changes, but I have to say that I am not too happy with the names that Boeing is coming up with. Although the MAX name has grown on me a bit since when I first heard about it (I was really not a fan), can’t Boeing come up with a better (and cooler) name than “Advanced Technology winglet?” I almost fell asleep just typing out that name.
Airbus has already stated that they are putting new winglets on the A320s and are calling them “sharklets.” That is a great name.
Yes, I know an airline is not going to choose the A320neo vs the 737 MAX based on the names (at least they better not), but the 737 and its new winglet are products that are deserving of creative names. Boeing has a history of coming up with classic names (Stratocruiser, Clipper, Dreamliner, etc). I just don’t see “MAX” and “Advanced Technology winglet” going down in the history books quite in the same way.
Is this the new Boeing 737 MAX livery? Nope, but a great Photoshop by Lyle Jansma.
There are two stories with the unveiling of the new Boeing 737 MAX: the actual aircraft (which promises greater efficiency) and the choice of the name “MAX.” When I heard about Boeing’s name for their 737 re-engine, for some odd reason, I got really thirsty and wanted a Pepsi… weird. While this story should lead with the differences of the new 737, I feel I have to talk about the new name first, since it is the most shocking.
Boeing is a smart company that makes respected aircraft. They have a history of creating legendary names: Stratocruiser, Stratoliner, and of course Dreamliner. The name “MAX” is just not in the same category in my opinion — it seems lazy and very “been there, done that.”
There has been a lot of speculation on what Boeing might call their 737 Re-engine: the 737RE, 737-8, 737NNG. Many people have been excited to find out the new name. Reading different reactions on the internet, it appears I am not the only one who is disappointed.
According to Boeing, these next, next generation aircraft will be written as the “737 MAX 7”, “737 MAX 8” and “737 MAX 9” without dashes. I think I might be writing them as 737-7, 737-8, 737-9 with dashes and no “MAX.”
The 737 Next Generation was a great name. I even like Airbus’ new A320neo name to describe their more efficient aircraft to compete with the 737.
Yes, I understand the ideas behind Boeing choosing this name, but it doesn’t mean the name works. During the press conference announcing the re-engined 737, Nicole Piasecki explained why Boeing chose the MAX name. “We wanted the name to capture how exceptional the 737 is not only to in terms of its performance but we wanted it to be able to differentiate the 7, 8 and 9. We wanted to make sure the name was easily identifiable from 4-year olds up to 90-year olds and we wanted to make sure that it represented the best that it will truly be… We thought about how do you convey superiority, the best, the gold standard in single-aisle airplanes. And how do you come up with a name to describe already a great airplane. We wanted to make sure that it talked about what it was going bring to the industry in terms of maximum benefit, maximum competitive advantage for our customers, maximum value and absolute maximum in what an airplane could deliver to our customers. So we came up with something that fit that and we will be calling this airplane the 737 MAX.”
With all the creative and smart people at Boeing this is the best (er max) that they could do?
I like the new real livery of the 737 MAX, but not so sure about the name. Image from Boeing.
Will an airline not choose this aircraft because of the name? Of course not. They are going to care more about the performance and the bottom line. Going with a re-engine 737 versus a whole new product makes sense. Airlines have already showed a strong demand for an updated single-aisle aircraft sooner rather than later. Going with a re-engined 737 will allow Boeing to improve the 777 and develop additional models for the 787.
There are already496 orders for the new MAX aircraft from five airlines. Those that already have 737NG’s on order will most likely have the opportunity to change over to MAX aircraft.
Boeing states the 737 MAX will have a 16% less fuel consumption than their “competitor’s current offering” (we will assume that is the Airbus A320) and it will have 4% less than the A320neo. The new plane will use CFM International LEAP-1B engines and is expected to have its first delivery sometime in 2017.
So what are your thoughts? Do you like the 737 MAX name?