Boeing rolled out its new 737 MAX 10 airplane on Friday, even as hundreds of MAX planes remain grounded worldwide, following two crashes last year.
"Boeing marked a key milestone as thousands of employees gathered for the debut of the first 737 MAX 10 at the company’s Renton, Washington factory," the company said in a statement.
In 2018, all 346 people on board the two flights — a Lion Air 737 Max 8, and the same model operated by Ethiopian Airlines in March — were killed in the crashes.
The 737 MAX 10, the largest variant of the MAX family, can seat up to 230 passengers and offers the lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle airplane ever produced. The airplane will now undergo system checks and engine runs prior to first flight next year, Boeing said.
According to reports, the Max 10 rollout could be the last for the 737 family, which began in 1965.
After Airbus unveiled it's A320neo, Boeing dropped the idea of replacing 737s with new 787 planes. The company instead opted to equip the former with more powerful engines, new wings, and other improvements, creating the 737 Max series.
The Max series did not originally include the 10. After Airbus rolled out it's A321 airplane, Boeing responded by stretching the MAX 9 by six feet. The company had to come up with new, telescoping landing gear to keep the long, Max 10 airplane's tail from hitting the runway during take-off.
Last week, the company said it was working towards Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification flights of its trouble-torn 737 Max aircraft, where pilots of the US aviation regulator will conduct flight (s) of the final updated software on board the aircraft.
“I’m honored to take this airplane on its first flight and show the world what you’ve put your heart and soul into,” said 737 Chief Pilot Jennifer Henderson.
The 737 MAX 10 currently has more than 550 orders and commitments from more than 20 customers around the globe.