Sunday, January 31, 2016

Max Wake-Up The Day After

Usually first landings of a first airplane type can invoke many images for everybody concerned, including investors. The 787 landed with much intensity for its innovation, and the 747-100 landed with much awe. However, the 737 Max landed the maker with much assurance. A strange condition emerged from all of the pomp and ceremony for the "Max first flight". The aviation world seemed to have shrugged.

Image result for 737 max first flight

Even though 4, 000 Boeing faithful stood in the Seattle rain applauding, where cameras clicked every frame of its takeoff and landing, there was a muted enthusiasm in the world of aviation. It became another 737 taking-off or landing every two seconds somewhere in the world. Boeing, apparently failed in getting world-wide Shock and Awe out of the Max first flight or even for its first landing (note some first flights don't even land on its landing gears).

All that can be said about first flight is it handled marvelously and was remarkably quiet in the cabin during its flight. The CFM engines purred. Perhaps that is how Boeing scripted the experience, and how it also tested out on the ground before first flight. Maybe Boeing is keeping a big secret before its first delivery to SWA. This bird has taken 50 years to build, test and fly after-all. The secret and the excitement is not found in Max's first flight, but in what the flight test equipment indicated when bolted to the 737 deck and reported to the "nerds-in- charge" about what just happened. The next year will change the 737 imperceptibly. You can say the Max will be maximized by December 2016.

·      Did the on-board test stations follow the Boeing Script of showing a 15% performance enhancement?
·      Does laminar flow technology make it better than the NEO?
·      Did the GE-CFM LEAP-1B engine pull/push the Max through and into single aisle Nirvana?  

These and many other astute questions will be answered, not from its first flight, but from months of testing following what was just kicked-off. In American football, the kickoff sailed out back of the end-zone and the 737 Max now starts on the twenty or twenty-five yard line depending on the rule imposed.

In the factory, slow then go, is the new norm. Both the Max and NG are going at a pace within the same space which inspires an opus. The Max, One note at a time pacing. The follow-on Max are to be produced very carefully in a slow time beat. Speed comes from careful production improvements not from seeking overly anxious production numbers. By the time Max first delivery is achieved, production excellence will meet the customer. 

The summer tests flight will really tell what Boeing has wrought. Boeing sales people can then say factual say things to potential customers in hushed tones. Sales teams say,"Where Testing is showing more like 17% improvement, shhh, don't let that out, it's between us!" The NEO already flew out to the customer and the MAX can undermine the Airbus early high ground with an optimal Max that is to follow.

The Max still remains a mystery after first flight, the longer it stays a mystery, the more the hype will build in the marketplace for the MAX. Sales will shadow the testing program, as it progresses through the tests. Sales will follow, as the NEO is in a fixed position of frozen production design, as the MAX can erode its lead.