FAA certifies high-density Boeing 737 Max destined for Ryanair

U.S. approval clears the way for European validation of the high-density jetliner.

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The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday granted certification of Boeing’s 737 Max 8200, a 200-seat model designed for ultra-low cost carriers to maximize seating on the single-aisle airliner.

Certification of the high-capacity Max is an early post-grounding trial of the relationship between the FAA, Boeing and European regulators in this new era of intense scrutiny of passenger aircraft models. The -8200 will be Boeing’s highest-capacity aircraft per square foot of cabin.

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The FAA said in a statement confirming the certification that “The 737-8200 incorporated all of the design improvements that were part of the 20-month review of the 737 MAX, including those related to Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).” The FAA re-cleared the 737 Max again for service in November and the jet formally began flying passengers again in December.

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Dimensionally identical to the recently cleared 737-8, the model (the eighty-two hundred as it’s called inside Boeing) adds a pair of mid-exit doors (MED) to increase the jet’s maximum seating to 200 passengers. With a 28-inch pitch configuration between seats, that will up seating from 189 seats in the earlier Max 8 and 737-800.

The 737-8200 adds a new pair of mid-exit doors to the rear of the passenger cabin to enable seating up to 200 passengers.
The 737-8200 adds a new pair of mid-exit doors to the rear of the passenger cabin to enable seating up to 200 passengers.

While much of the forward-looking focus on certification has centered on the effect of amplified regulatory scrutiny on the 777X and its certification slide to late-2023, the first Boeing airplane to go under the microscope for fresh regulatory clearances in U.S. and Europe is this new high-density 737 Max derivative.

The next step for the 737-8200 is certification by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the obvious critical milestone that makes delivery to Dublin-based Ryanair possible. Boeing has more than 30 -8200 aircraft built for the airline and its new sub-brands Malta Air and Poland-based Buzz (formerly Ryanair Sun).

EASA approved the Max’s return to service on January 27, clearing the way for the jet to fly passengers again on the continent.

Designed specifically with Ryanair in mind, the Irish airline will put 197 people on each -8200. The aircraft’s certification is enormously important to both Boeing and the ultra-low cost airline.

Read: Lessons of DC-10 grounding pave way for 737 Max return

Ryanair’s Dec. 3 order for 75 more aircraft represented the first sizable firm commitment to the 737 Max since its March 2019 grounding. The airline now has 210 of the Boeing jets on order, which will be delivered over a four-year period to December 2024.

When it first placed an order for the -8200 in September 2014, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary told The Wall Street Journal that its original deal for up to 200 aircraft would be delivered over a 10-year period to 2029.

Read: Until business travelers return, every airline is a low-cost carrier

The airline is taking advantage of available production slots, as it seeks to quickly grab market share from its ailing competition in Europe. That acceleration provides the plane maker a stronger foundation on which to solidify increasing production and generate much-needed cash in 2021 and beyond. This also builds on additional Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines orders for the Max.

At the time of the Max variant’s 2014 launch, Boeing touted the -8200 as 5% more efficient per seat versus the Max 8, while only adding slightly less than 1% to the aircraft’s trip costs.

Write to Jon Ostrower at jon@theaircurrent.com

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