Boeing’s first 737 MAX 9, the second variant of the re-engined 737, launched its maiden flight Thursday, officially starting its flight test program. The aircraft took off at 10:52 a.m. PST and completed its flight 2 hours, 42 minutes later, landing at 1:34 p.m PST.

The company rolled out the aircraft March 7 at its Renton, Washington facility. The CFM International LEAP-1B-powered MAX 9's first flight comes just over 14 months after the MAX 8 achieved first flight.

While airborne, test pilots Capt. Christine Walsh and Capt. Ed Wilson performed tests on the MAX 9's flight controls, systems and handling, Boeing said. The MAX 9 will next undergo comprehensive flight testing before customer deliveries begin in 2018. 

As of March 31, Boeing's MAX program, which also includes the MAX 7 and MAX 8 variants, has 3,703 firm orders from 86 customers. Customers for the MAX 9 variant include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, US lessor Aviation Capital Group, Irish lessor Avolon, Icelandair, Indonesian low-cost carrier (LCC) Lion Air (with 201 aircraft on order, by far the biggest customer for the MAX 9), Turkish Airlines and United Airlines, among others.

The MAX 9 has a maximum capacity of 220 passengers and a range of 3,515 nautical miles. Boeing said the smaller MAX 7 and higher capacity MAX 200 variants will roll out in 2019. 

Linda Blachly