Boeing 737 MAX jet successfully completes first flight

Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:22pm EST
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By Alwyn Scott

(Reuters) - Boeing Co's (BA.N: Quote) 737 MAX aircraft completed its first flight on Friday, taking off from rain-slick tarmac and conducting tests for about three hours before landing safely at Boeing Field in Seattle.

The smooth flight of the new aircraft marks another step toward scheduled delivery to airlines in 2017.

Live video supplied by Boeing showed the smooth take-off at 9:46 a.m. (1746 GMT) and landing at about 12:33 p.m. (2033 GMT)

The plane is the fourth version of the original 737, which made its first flight in 1967 and has become one of Boeing's most profitable aircraft.

The 737 MAX features new engines from CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric (GE.N: Quote) and Safran SA of France (SAF.PA: Quote), and other refinements that improve fuel efficiency by 14 percent compared with the current generation 737.

Boeing has sold 3,072 of the planes and is racing to sell more as it battles for market share against rival Airbus's (AIR.PA: Quote) competing A320neo, which earlier this month was delivered to its first customer, Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote).

Boeing is expected to deliver its first 737 MAX to customers in 2017. Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N: Quote) is scheduled to be the first airline to add the 737 MAX to its fleet.

The first flight of the plane, which is filled with test equipment, was expected to last about 2 1/2 hours. Tracking web sites showed the aircraft cruising west over the Olympic Peninsula, the western part of Washington State.   Continued...

Ground crew members escort a Boeing 737 MAX as it returns from a flight test at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington January 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Jason Redmond