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Tour Boeing's Brand New 737 MAX, Launching with Southwest in 2017

July 11 2016
7 min read
Tour Boeing's Brand New 737 MAX, Launching with Southwest in 2017
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Believe it or not, it's been nearly 50 years since the maiden flight of Boeing's first 737. In total, Boeing has produced nearly 10,000 737s — though not all of them are still flying today. The 737 is hardly the most exciting plane out there, but with thousands flying every single day, it's the world's most popular passenger jet. So, it's time for an update, in the form of the Boeing 737 MAX, which made its air show debut here at Farnborough.

Back when Boeing was planning the MAX, jet fuel was near its all-time high — it's no surprise, then, that improved fuel efficiency was a huge priority for the design team. The aircraft achieves higher efficiency thanks to a new wing, winglet and engine design.

It doesn't take long to notice that the MAX isn't any ordinary 737 — the plane has a similar engine cowling design to the 787 Dreamliner. It looks super slick.

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Besides the engine and the wing modifications, this 737 looks very familiar, though.

If you've flown a 737 with Boeing's new Sky Interior, the MAX's cabin will feel familiar as well, starting with the flight attendant panel near the cockpit.

Cockpit

The cockpit, meanwhile, should be familiar to pilots as well. While the large LCD panels are a new addition, the MAX's cockpit is designed for a seamless transition.

Since virtually all airlines will operate the MAX in conjunction with older 737s, it's critical that pilots be certified to fly both versions.

That said, all the switches and dials have a more modern look and feel, which should be refreshing to pilots used to older 737s.

Cabin and Seats

Inside, the MAX looks and feels very similar to the Sky Interior 737s already flying today.

Each airline will pick its own seats to add — this particular aircraft has the same seats you'll find on newer Southwest planes.

The new seats are designed by B/E Aerospace — I found them to be comfy during my brief time on the demo plane.

As you may have noticed above (and below), the exit row is missing a seat on each side of the plane, as you'll find on some 737-700s. That should still be the case when this plane enters service with Southwest next year — all the more reason to make sure you check in early for your flight!

While the windows might look a bit larger, they aren't — though the same design improvements present on other Sky Interior planes were worked in here.

As this plane will be headed to Southwest, there's no seat-back entertainment, so plan to watch content on your own device, instead.

Each seat has a literature pocket up top and a small fold-out tray table.

This aircraft will hold 175 seats in an all-economy configuration, with each seat offering at least 32 inches of pitch.

Amenities

Amenities on a 737? Yeah, there aren't many — just the basics, like adjustable air vents and overhead reading lights.

The MAX also sports larger overhead bins, so the plane should be able to accommodate most passengers.

In-Flight Testing

Unique to this particular MAX is an engineering bay, where in-flight technicians monitor the aircraft during test flights.

There are cables running throughout the aircraft — the MAX will undergo quite a bit more testing before it begins flying passengers in 2017.

Test seats are arranged in a 2-2 configuration, so Boeing's engineers have a bit more space to perform their duties.

Rear and Galley

I didn't get a chance to check out the lav, but I wouldn't expect anything fancy.

The galley, however, looks super sleek!

As with the current 737 (and most other planes), passengers can board through the rear doors as well at select airports.

I also had a chance to peek under the belly — there's a lot going on under there.

Bottom Line

The MAX is a perfectly attractive aircraft, but it won't offer a materially different experience than what passengers already have with the Sky Interior 737s.

What the plane will do is offer the airlines a more cost-effective option for getting customers from A to B, which could — in theory — lead to lower fares down the line.

Boeing's 737 MAX is on display at the Farnborough Air Show during the weekend, and it'll be participating in the flying display as well. Be sure to check it out if you're in town!

See below for more from Farnborough 2016: