Boeing Next-Generation 737-900ER Takes Flight

The newest member of the Boeing Next-Generation 737 airplane family took to the skies over Washington state Friday on its maiden flight.

Painted in the Boeing blue-and-white livery, the 737-900ER (Extended Range) took off at 9:21 a.m. PDT from the Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash.

The first flight marks the beginning of a five-month flight test program to obtain certification of the airplane from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency by early 2007.

Boeing flight test pilots, Capts. Ray Craig and Van Chaney, flew the airplane west toward the Pacific Ocean, then south to Astoria, Ore., and over Washington state's Olympic Peninsula before landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. The first flight tested the airplane's airworthiness, aerodynamic performance, stability and cruise performance. Flight controls, the autopilot, pressurization, avionics, air condition systems and the flight management computer also were checked during the flight.

"It was a near flawless flight," said Craig, following the one-hour, 45-minute flight. "We've been working on this airplane since 2001 and to see it come to fruition under budget and ahead of schedule is a great tribute to the Boeing engineering and manufacturing team."

The 737-900ER flight test program will include a second test airplane, and the two jets are scheduled to accrue a total of 235 hours of flight testing and 210 hours of static ground testing. Both flight-test airplanes are scheduled to be delivered next year to Lion Air, the 737-900ER launch customer.

To date, Boeing has won orders for 80 737-900ERs from Lion Air, GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS), Sky Airlines, Continental Airlines and SpiceJet. Additionally, Futura International Airways and Excel Airways will begin operating 737-900ERs on lease from GECAS in 2008.

The 737-900ER incorporates a new pair of exit doors, a flat rear-pressure bulkhead and other structural and aerodynamic design changes that allow it to carry up to 215 passengers and fly up to 3,200 nautical miles (5,900 km).

The 737-900ER will begin commercial service with Lion Air in the spring of 2007.

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