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The competition between the world’s two biggest commercial airplane manufacturers continues in earnest this year, with the US-headquartered Boeing and Europe’s Airbus planning to test and launch a large swath of new models over the next 12 months. Add to that new aircraft offerings from South American-based Embraer — one of which is expected to fly for the first time this year — and it’s shaping up to be a busy 2017 in the world of new passenger jets. Here’s a look at what we can expect to see in 2017.
The Word at Boeing Is MAX
The Chicago-based company is launching two new versions of the 737 this year — with two more business jet variants on the drawing board for future years — and all of them will carry the “MAX” moniker. We expect to see the first 737 MAX 8 delivered to Southwest in the first half of 2017, possibly as early as March. [Update 2/17/2017: Norwegian Air Shuttle has now leapfrogged Southwest and will be the first airline to take delivery, currently set for May.] The single-aisle jet will sport a longer fuselage, allowing it to hold 36 more passengers in a typical configuration than the MAX 7. Southwest is the largest operator of the 737 and plans to use these new MAX 8 aircraft to retire some of its older airplanes.
Meanwhile, the 737 MAX 9 is having some trouble gaining traction as airlines seem to prefer the Airbus 321neo, which can offer a longer range thanks to its higher ground clearance and the ability to hang more powerful engines from its wings. Still, the MAX 9 test aircraft is scheduled to fly for the first time in 2017 with plans for the plane to officially enter service in 2018. That aircraft will increase capacity by another 16 passengers over the MAX 8 and will be able to fly up to 3,600 nautical miles.
On the Dreamliner front, Boeing began final assembly of its first 787-10 late last year, which means barring any major surprises, we should see the plane’s first flight sometime in 2017. The mid-size wide-body aircraft is being built entirely in North Charleston, SC, and is more than 90% identical to its predecessor, the 787-9, but will be able to seat 330 passengers in a two-cabin configuration and fly over 6,400 nautical miles. Launch customer Singapore Airlines is rumored to be getting its first 787-10 in May 2018.
At Airbus, It’s All About Neo
The new engine option or “neo” continues to be rolled out across the Airbus A320 family. The single-aisle A321neo saw some setbacks in 2016, including a tail strike a few days after the plane’s first test flight and issues with the Pratt & Whitney engines, all of which contributed to delivery delays. But while the first operator of the aircraft has yet to be named, Hawaiian Airlines has announced it expects to take delivery of the first of its 16 ordered A321neo’s in the 4th quarter of 2017. The A321neo is expected to be a popular replacement for aging Boeing 757s around the world.
On the other hand, airlines haven’t been as excited about the “neo” version of Airbus’ smaller A319, with only 58 copies on order with Airbus as of November 2016. Still, test versions of the plane have been spotted on the ground and it should finally fly for the first time in 2017. The plane is designed to seat 140 passengers in two classes or up to 160 in a high-density layout, yet still boasts a range of up to 3,750 nautical miles.
Outside of the A320 line, the “neo” designation is coming to the A330 as well, which has left the paint shop and is expected to fly for the first time in the spring of 2017. The revision to this wide-body plane will use new engines similar to the Dreamliner and is designed to compete with its Boeing counterpart.
Finally, the new A350-1000 successfully completed its first flight almost two months ago and should be ready for delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways in late 2017. The wide-body jet will be the longest edition of the A350 XWB family to date and able to seat as many as 440 passengers in a high-density layout.
And Don’t Forget About Embraer
Even though it’s a smaller player than the other two transatlantic giants, this Brazilian manufacturer still has two aces up its sleeve. The E190 and the E195 are the first models of the revised E2 series, with the E190 already into test flights and running ahead of schedule. The aircraft isn’t expected to have its first delivery until 2018 to an as-yet-undisclosed launch customer, but the E195 should see its first flight sometime in the second half of 2017. The E2 updates of Embraer’s narrow-body jets feature new fly-by-wire control systems and Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines.
Which of these new planes are you most excited about? Let us know, below.
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