Boeing’s newest 737 jetliner gunned its engines and headed into rain-streaked skies, with profit and pride riding on its wings.
The aerospace company’s fortunes depend on a smooth market debut for the 737 Max next year with initial customer Southwest Airlines. The maiden flight took place days ahead of schedule, a contrast to Boeing’s delay-plagued 787 Dreamliner.
Workers and customers in rain ponchos and hats bearing the 737’s signature teal colour scheme were on hand for the takeoff of the plane, christened ‘The Spirit of Renton’, a reference to the Seattle suburb where Boeing has made single-aisle aircraft since the 1950s.
“It is an emotional experience,” Keith Leverkuhn, a Boeing vice president and general manager of the 737 Max programme, said after the plane was airborne. “Someone said these things are like comet sightings. They don’t happen very often and when they do, it’s very, very special.”
The latest version of the half-century-old jet took off at 9.46am outside Seattle and flew laps over western Washington, before landing at 12.32pm. Three other planes under construction also will be used for flight tests this year.