What does an aircraft that is in the certification process look like? We just had the opportunity to see it at the last Paris Air Show. Boeing exhibited several of its assets, Ryidah Air’s Boeing 787, 777X and 737 MAX10, which we had the opportunity to visit.
We received our invitation to Boeing’s chalet, where we were hosted by the Boeing media team. Before the actual tour of the aircraft, we had the opportunity to listen to a presentation on the status of the certification projects of the mentioned aircraft. We could hear optimism in the voice of Boeing employees, however, there are no fixed dates set, but only hope. Hope that the 777X deliveries could begin in late 2024 or during 2025, that certification of the 737 MAX 10 and MAX 7 is nearing completion, and that it is a matter of months before the FAA issues a permit for regular commercial flights. Still, Boeing has something stronger than hope, something they are reluctant to talk about yet it exists, the wholehearted support of the USA as a country in the completion of these projects. But whether customers, whose orders have been waiting for years have patience, is another matter.
But let’s get back to our topic, the aircraft tour. We first had the opportunity to see the 737 MAX 10. The first thing that distinguishes the aircraft from the MAX 8 or MAX 9 types is the visible difference in the length of the fuselage, with the addition of a pair of emergency exits behind the wings. The aircraft, although experimental, has been brought to an extremely clean condition, with polished plating and chrome engine parts that can serve as a mirror.
When entering the aircraft, we first see a notice on the door, which, by law, must be posted on this type of aircraft – “EXPERIMENTAL – Passenger notice: This aircraft does not comply with Federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.”
While we were waiting in line on the stairs to get into the plane, we discussed whether the cabin was arranged as a demonstrator, that is, to serve as a sales tool for Boeing, or whether the plane was in a complete experimental configuration. As expected, the aircraft is filled with water ballasts, flight engineer stations, various other tools for flight monitoring and testing the aircraft. The floor of the cabin is filled with various cables, and only a few passenger seats can be seen through the entire cabin, clearly used and taken from an older, probably written-off aircraft. Throughout the cabin, there are a lot of notifications like “EXIT INOP”, indicating that the aircraft is in full swing of testing.
We had the opportunity to speak with the head of flight operations on the development of the MAX 7 and MAX 10 programs. The captain is completely confident in the safety of the aircraft and the continuation of the MAX aircraft program, referring to the statement that we have often heard from Boeing pilots – “I would put my family on this plane”. I have to admit that I really believe the captain when he says that and I don’t think it’s just a marketing statement. The captain also took us to the cockpit, which is in no way different from other MAX aircraft. If you’re wondering how to cram all the advanced control and flight monitoring technology of a 21st century aircraft into a cockpit designed in the 1960s, look no further than the MAX cockpit. Although the cockpit is modern and, to me as a pilot, beautiful, I cannot escape the impression of chaos and congestion.
However, the 737 MAX 10 was only an overtoure for what we were a little more interested in, the 777X.
The very appearance of the 777X dominated LeBourget’s static display. The long and wide fuselage, huge engines and folded wingtips undoubtedly set the 777X apart from all other aircraft on display.
We didn’t get a special introduction to the 777X, they just let us explore the plane on our own. With the already described inscription on the door, we enter the cabin, which surprises with its size. Of course, there is nothing in the cabin except testing equipment, similar to that of the MAX, so the impression of the cabin is even greater. A flying concert hall, was our comment on such a cabin. First we got a peek inside the cockpit which is still full of orange experimental parts. Although we have seen the cockpit in various Boeing promotional videos, we were once again surprised that it visually resembles the Dreamliner cockpit more than the previous 777 series. What always excites us is the size of the cockpit, and the eye-pleasing gray color, unlike the khaki brown of the previous 777s.
The cabin is filled with promotional installations that should show how much better the 777X is than its main competitor – the A350-1000. They compare the size of the windows, the diameter of the cabin, etc. Again, a few rows of passenger seats recycled from another plane and a lot of different equipment. The engineers we spoke with say that the test equipment is not often replaced, and that the same one we are looking at was probably used to test earlier models of the 777 aircraft. Again, walking through the cabin, we see how truly huge it is. We exited the aircraft through the rear door, looking at the imposing wing with folding tip and the engine that dominates its dimensions. We have to admit that we would like to fly on this plane as passengers, hopefully as soon as possible.