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“It flew beautifully, We had no issues” said co-pilot

The first flight of the 737 MAX took place at 9:48 am (17:48 GMT) on 29th Jan 2016 from Runway 34 at Renton Municipal Airport. At the controls were Capt Ed Wilson, chief pilot 737 Program, and Craig Bomben, vice president of flight testing. Bomben said that "other then deteriorating weather at Renton, we had no butterflies or jitters in our stomachs. We did get out of Renton in the nick of time."

The departure time was brought forward slightly due to worsening weather conditions. Probably much to the relief of the 4,000 Boeing employees, media members and invitees who attended the event.

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The aircraft, registration N8701Q (MSN 42554, /LN 5602), named Spirit of Renton, flew for 2 hrs 47 mins mostly to the East of Seattle using callsign BOE1, It landed at Boeing Field runway 13 at 12:35pm. The aircraft stayed below 250 knots for the whole flight, which is normal on first flights. It initially climbed to 15,000 feet, and later climbed to 25,000 feet. Unusually for a first flight, the landing gear was retracted. This was achievable because of the maturity of the basic platform.

Plot of the first flight from Flight Radar 24

Ed Wilson said after the flight. "We were amazed at how quiet the cabin was, I took a walk mid-flight through the cabin and was impressed.". He went on to say “It flew beautifully, we had no issues.”

Test pilots

(Photo Guy Norris)

Test pilots Craig Bomben (left) and Ed Wilson (right) emerge from IA001 to be greeted by Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Ray Conner.

The second MAX aircraft built will be incorporated into the test program within a month. The third and fourth MAX's are in varying stages of completion on Renton's "Go Slow" Surge Final Assembly Line. According to Boeing's chief project engineer Michael Teal, the aircraft's test fleet will wrap up the campaign by the end of the year. After type certification, the aircraft will go to launch customer Southwest Airlines.

Boeing’s test pilots said they plan nine months of aerial tests for the Max, but have given themselves 20 months, the same as the 787, despite that plane’s bigger technological leap. “I don’t want to cut [the allotted testing time to the bone and have to add days on to the end, and unfortunately we have done that in the past,” said Keith Leverkuhn, Boeing’s program manager for the 737 Max.

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