Saying that the "airplane just felt right," 737 MAX Chief Pilot Ed Wilson declared the first flight of Boeing's new single-aisle airplane "a success" shortly after it touched down at Boeing Field early Friday afternoon.
"The 737 MAX just felt right in flight, giving us confidence that this airplane will meet our customers' expectations," Wilson said.
Thousands of employees were on hand at 9:46 a.m. Pacific time Friday to watch the airplane take off from Renton Field, adjacent to the factory where employees assembled the airplane. Just over two-and-a-half hours later, hundreds more people watched as the airplane gently set down at 12:33 p.m. Pacific time at Boeing Field, located south of Seattle, where flight-testing will be conducted in the coming months.
A live webcast of the takeoff and landing was viewed by employees and the public across the country and around the world.
"It was an amazing experience to be here and see the airplane fly for the first time," said Blong Yang, team leader at Boeing Fabrication's facility at Salt Lake City, where the 737 MAX's flight deck console is fabricated. "To be able to see the plane put together, and to see the pilot in there, using the console we build to take the airplane on its first flight, just blew me away."
"Thanks to our team — a team that extends from design and Fabrication to Final Assembly and Flight Test — we are here today, right when we planned to be, because of them and our disciplined approach to development," said Keith Leverkuhn, 737 MAX vice president and general manager of Airplane Development for Commercial Airplanes.
The 737 MAX program, led by Airplane Development for Commercial Airplanes, was launched in 2011.
"The MAX program is demonstrating the benefits of our management approach to development programs," said Scott Fancher, senior vice president and general manager of Airplane Development.
"By consolidating development programs like the MAX, the 787-9 and -10 and the 777X under one roof, we've been able to apply a single management model tailored for the development environment and its unique challenges. Our teams have common tools, processes and standards for program execution and are keenly focused on the traditional risk areas in development," he said.
"The result so far has been progress on or ahead of schedule and highly producible designs that are experiencing relatively few hiccups in production and validating the performance commitments we've made to our customers. Now we begin the next phase in development — flight-testing," Fancher said.
Beginning with first flight, the 737 MAX enters the flight-test phase of its development before being delivered to launch customer Southwest Airlines next year. The program has amassed more than 3,000 orders from 62 customers around the world.
"Today's first flight of the 737 MAX carries us across the threshold of a new century of innovation, one driven by the same passion and ingenuity that have made this company great for 100 years," said Ray Conner, president and CEO of Commercial Airplanes. "We are tremendously proud to begin testing an airplane that will deliver unprecedented fuel-efficiency in the single-aisle market for our customers."