MAX Tests Continue, and REX Plans its Fleet
- FAA Administrator Steve Dickson (a former Delta pilot) took a B737 MAX for a test flight last week and said although he thought the aircraft had come a long way, more needs to be done before it can be re-certified. Dickson completed two landings during the course of the two-hour test flight and told reporters, “I like what I see.” Dickson cautioned, however, that the FAA and international regulators still are reviewing all the data and the fixes to flight-control software in order to re-certify the aircraft, which has been grounded for 18 months, after two fatal accidents. The B737 MAX could be re-certified by the end of the year.
Separately, Boeing said it is consolidating its B787 production lines at its factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, ending the advanced twinjet’s assembly in Boeing’s historic Puget Sound home. The South Carolina facility came online in 2010 and is the only facility capable of building the larger B787-10. Smaller B787-family aircraft will continue to be built in Washington state until the overall type’s production rate goes down to the previously announced six aircraft per month next year, Boeing said. Boeing’s Puget Sound factories will continue building B737, B747, B767, and B777 aircraft.
- Qantas, with its mainline and Jetstar units, has long dominated the domestic Australian market. Poor Virgin Australia was driven into bankruptcy. Now, both airlines (Virgin is back with new owners) have another contender to face. The regional carrier REX, as it disclosed earlier this year, will jump into the busy Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane triangle with mainline jets next year.
In pursuit of that objective, REX last week signed leases for six B737-800s. They’ll start arriving in November and will all be on hand by the end of calendar Q1 of next year. The arrival schedule will allow for the debut of Sydney-Melbourne flights in March, with advanced ticket sales starting in December, pending final regulatory approvals. REX hopes to ultimately reach a fleet of 10 B737s for its mainline endeavor, though the exact number will depend on demand.