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