Boeing’s new 737 Max 9 aircraft successfully completed its first flight last week, ahead of the aircraft’s expected service entry in 2018. The aircraft was officially rolled out last month.

The second variant in Boeing’s 737 Max line behind the Max 8, the Max 9 completed a two-hour-48-minute flight from Renton Field in Washington during which tests on flight controls, systems and handling qualities were performed. The 737 Max 9 is now set to undergo comprehensive flight-testing between now and its launch next year.

“The Max 9’s first flight is another milestone that continues the programme’s strong track record of progress,” said Boeing Commercial Planes president and CEO, Kevin McAllister. “The Max family of airplanes offers more value than any other competitor and its strong market acceptance is reflected in over 3,700 airplanes on order from 86 customers around the world.”

According to Boeing, the 737 Max is its fastest-selling aircraft. The Max 8 is due to begin delivery in the second quarter of this year, with Norwegian the first airline to fly it internationally. Meanwhile Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air is set to be the launch customer for the Max 9.

Offering a capacity of 220 passengers (16 more than the Max 8), the Max 9 has a reported operational range of 3,515 nautical miles (6,510 kilometres).

Both the Max 8 and 9 will be followed by the smaller Max 7 and the higher capacity Max 200 in 2019.