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First Boeing 737Max in Southern Africa - Comair Leads the way.

South African based airline Comair took delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 last week. Comair operates domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee and operates as a low-cost carrier under its own brand. Arguably the most successful airline in South African history, Comair have turned a profit every year since their inception in 1946.

Photo Boeing

They currently have a fleet of 27 Boeing aircraft including the B737Max, Comair plan to upgrade their entire fleet to B737-800’s and B737max’s in the next few years, this 737Max is the first of eight that Comair have on order from the aircraft manufacturer.

Ferry Flight To Johannesburg crewed by Martin louw, Johan Bruwer, Piet Ackerman and Roy Clegg

The 737 MAX range is the latest incarnation of the most popular jet aircraft ever and is equipped with the latest technology to improve the passenger experience, range, flexibility, fuel efficiency and reliability.

“More seats, lower operating costs and less maintenance downtime will enhance operating efficiency and improve punctuality," said Wrenelle Stander, executive director of Comair’s airline division.

Photo Boeing

Comair said its fleet renewal strategy had been delivering results since it began in 2001 and the airline now used 55 % less fuel per passenger.

Recently Comair moved their maintenance from the embattled SAA Technical to Lufthansa Technik. “Lufthansa Technik’s experience with the aircraft type and the operational efficiencies we will gain from faster turnaround times will enable us to fully leverage the benefits of our investment and improve customer service,” Stander explained.

Photo Boeing

In 2006, Boeing started considering the replacement of the 737 with a "clean-sheet" design that could follow the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In June 2010, a decision on this replacement was postponed into 2011.

On December 1, 2010, Boeing's competitor, Airbus, launched the Airbus A320neo family to improve fuel burn and operating efficiency with new engines: the CFM International LEAP and Pratt & Whitney PW1000G.

In February 2011, Boeing's CEO Jim McNerney maintained "We're going to do a new airplane." At the March 2011 ISTAT conference, BCA President James Albaugh was not sure about a 737 re-engine, like Boeing CFO James A. Bell stated at JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defence conference the same month. The A320neo gathered 667 commitments at the June 2011 Paris Air Show for a backlog of 1,029 units since its launch, setting an order record for a new commercial airliner.

On July 20, 2011, American Airlines announced an order for 460 narrow body jets including 130 A320ceos and 130 A320neos, and intended to order 100 re-engine 737’s with CFM LEAPs, pending Boeing confirmation. The order broke Boeing's monopoly with the airline and forced Boeing into a re-engine 737. As this sale included a Most-Favoured-Customer Clause, Airbus must refund any difference to American if it sells to another airline at a lower price, so the European manufacturer cannot give a competitive price to competitor United Airlines, leaving it to a Boeing-skewed fleet.

On August 30, 2011, Boeing's board of directors approved the launch of the re-engine 737, expecting a fuel burn 16% lower than the Airbus A320ceo and 4% lower than the A320neo. Studies for additional drag reduction were performed during 2011, including revised tail cone, natural laminar flow nacelle, and hybrid laminar flow vertical stabilizer. Boeing abandoned the development of a new design.

In March 2010, the estimated cost to re-engine the 737 according to Mike Bair, Boeing Commercial Airplanes' vice president of business strategy & marketing, would be $2–3 billion including the CFM engine development. During Boeing's Q2 2011 earnings call, former CFO James Bell said the development cost for the airframe only would be 10–15% of the cost of a new program estimated at $10–12 billion at the time.

Fuel consumption is reduced by 14% from the 737NG. In November 2014, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney said the 737 will be replaced by a new airplane by 2030, slightly bigger and with new engines but keeping its general configuration, probably a composite airplane.

On August 13, 2015, the first 737 MAX fuselage completed assembly at Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kansas, for a test aircraft that would eventually be delivered to launch customer Southwest Airlines. On December 8, 2015, the first 737 MAX—a MAX 8 named "Spirit of Renton"—was rolled out at the Boeing Renton Factory.

The first flight took place on January 29, 2016, nearly 49 years after the maiden flight of the 737, a 737-100, on April 9, 1967. The first Max 8, 1A001, was used for aerodynamic trials: flutter testing, stability and control, and take-off performance-data verification, before it was modified for an operator and delivered. 1A002 was used for performance and engine testing: climb and landing performance, crosswind, noise, cold weather, high altitude, fuel burn and water-ingestion. Aircraft systems including Autoland were tested with 1A003. 1A004, with an airliner layout, flew function-and-reliability certification for 300h with a light flight-test instrumentation.

The 737 MAX gained FAA certification on March 8, 2017. It was approved by the EASA on March 27, 2017. After completing 2,000 test flight hours and 180-minute ETOPS testing requiring 3,000 simulated flight cycles in April 2017, CFM International notified Boeing of a possible manufacturing quality issue with low pressure turbine (LPT) discs in LEAP-1B engines. Boeing suspended 737 MAX flights on May 4 and resumed flights on May 12.

The first delivery was a MAX 8, handed over to Malindo Air (a subsidiary of Lion Air) on May 16, 2017; it entered service on May 22. Norwegian Air subsidiary Norwegian Air International was the second airline to put a 737 MAX into service, when it performed its first transatlantic flight with a MAX 8 named Sir Freddie Laker on July 15, 2017 between Edinburgh Airport in Scotland and Hartford International Airport in the US state of Connecticut, followed by a second rotation from Edinburgh to Stewart Airport, New York.

Boeing aims to match the 99.7% dispatch reliability of the NG. Southwest Airlines, the launch customer, took delivery of its first 737 MAX on August 29, 2017. Boeing plans to deliver at least 50 to 75 aircraft in 2017, 10–15% of the more than 500 737s to be delivered in the year.

After one year of service, 130 have been delivered to 28 customers, logging over 41,000 flights in 118,000 hours and flying over 6.5 million passengers. Flydubai observed 15% more efficiency than the NG, more than the 14% promised, and dependability reached 99.4%. Long routes include 24 over 2,500 nmi , including a daily Aerolineas Argentinas service from Buenos Aires to Punta Cana over 3,252 nmi.

Armed with this new technology and sticking to their tried and tested customer service recipe, I’m sure Comair will continue to grow, while other Airlines in the region battle to keep their doors open.


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