About the 737 Max: plane at the cen­tre of the Lion Air crash

The National - News - - BUSINESS - The Na­tional

The tragic crash this week of Lion Air flight JT610 into the sea off Jakarta with 189 peo­ple on board has put the spot­light on Boe­ing’s 737 Max 8s. While the cause of the crash has yet to be de­ter­mined and Boe­ing has said it is ready to help in­ves­ti­ga­tors, the nar­row-body air­craft is an en­dur­ing sym­bol of the avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

What is the 737 Max 8? The air­craft is part of Boe­ing’s 737 Max fam­ily, and went into ser­vice in 2017. The sin­gle-aisle plane can seat as many as 210 pas­sen­gers and is pow­ered by two CFM Leap-1B en­gines. The 737 Max 8 model is 39.52 me­tres long and has a 35.9-me­tre wing­span. The 737 Max 8 com­petes with the Air­bus A320­neo range of air­craft and has a list price of $117.1 mil­lion (Dh429m).

What’s the appeal of the 737 Max?

It is used by more than 100 air­lines and is pop­u­lar with low-cost op­er­a­tors such as In­done­sia’s bud­get Lion Air as well as big op­er­a­tors glob­ally. Its sell­ing points are fuel ef­fi­ciency, with more in cost sav­ings than other nar­row-bod­ied air­craft, and re­li­a­bil­ity, al­low­ing op­er­a­tors to use the jet fre­quently with a quick turn­around time. The 737 Max in­cor­po­rates new fly-by-wire sys­tems for its pri­mary con­trol sur­faces, in­stead of clunky man­ual con­trols, re­sult­ing in weight sav­ings. “The new ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy winglets also help slash fuel burn by up to 3 per cent, which saves air­lines hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars and gal­lons of fuel each year,” said Saj Ah­mad, chief an­a­lyst at Strate­gic Aero Re­search. These ben­e­fits make the 737 the “air­plane of choice among op­er­a­tors who are look­ing to hedge their bets against a back­drop of ris­ing fuel prices,” said Mr Ah­mad. Turk­ish Air­lines, which has more than 300 air­craft in ser­vice, has lever­aged the ex­tended reach of air­craft to ser­vice des­ti­na­tions in Africa, while fly­dubai is now op­er­at­ing a daily ser­vice be­tween Dubai and Helsinki.

How cru­cial is the Boe­ing 737 Max to Boe­ing? Boe­ing has an or­der back­log of 4,654 planes for the air­craft from more than 100 cus­tomers glob­ally. Lion Air placed a $22.4 bil­lion or­der for 230 737 Max air­craft in 2012. A 737 takes off ev­ery 2.5 sec­onds some­where around the world and, de­spite the Lion Air crash, “the in­dis­putable fact is that the 737 fam­ily is one of the safest air­planes in com­mer­cial avi­a­tion his­tory”, Mr Ah­mad said.

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