Boeing has debuted its first 737 Max 9 aircraft, the second variant in its 737 Max line behind the Max 8, with a 2018 date currently set for it to enter service. The aircraft is now set to undergo systems checks, fuelling and engine runs on the flight time before flight testing commences in the next few weeks.

The 737 Max 9 has been developed with a maximum capacity of 220 passengers – 16 more than its precursor – and has an operational range of 3,515 nautical miles (6,510km) that Boeing says “will open up new destinations in the single-aisle market”.

Speaking about the rollout, Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s 737 Max programme, said: “The 737 Max team continues to do a fantastic job getting us to these important milestones right on schedule. Our primary focus is delivering an aircraft that has the legendary reliability our 737 customers depend on, plus the optimised flexibility and range capability they desire.”

Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air is to be the launch customer for the 737 Max 9. Back in 2011, the airline confirmed an order for 201 737 Maxs and 29 next-generation 737-900ERs, estimated to have been worth US$21.7 billion.

Meanwhile Boeing’s 737 Max 8 is due to begin delivery in the second quarter of this year, which Norwegian will be the first airline to fly internationally. Both the Max 8 and Max 9 will be followed by the smaller Max 7 and higher-capacity Max 200.

Boeing says its 737 Max series is its fastest-selling aircraft, with more than 3,600 orders from 83 customers so far.