Boeing is preparing to begin flight tests of the third, and smallest member of the 737 MAX family, the 737-7, following the rollout of the first aircraft at its Renton factory in Washington on Feb 5. 

Boeing is scheduled to deliver the 737-7 in 2019 but hopes the positive news from upcoming flight tests will help stimulate further sales of the variant. While overall sales of the MAX have mushroomed to almost 4,100, the 737-7 has lagged behind. Despite a redesign of the -7 in 2016 to add range and increase passenger capacity by adding 12 seats, Boeing still has fewer than 70 acknowledged firm orders for the variant – compared to more than 2,100 for the -8 and around 274 for the stretched -10.

Designed for up to 172 passengers and a maximum range of 3,850 nautical miles, which is the longest range of the MAX airplane family, Boeing says aerodynamic and propulsion improvements allow the MAX 7 to fly 1,000 nautical miles farther and carry more passengers than its predecessor, the 737-700, while having 18% lower fuel costs per seat. The company says, as a result, the MAX 7 has the advantage over its nearest rival, the Airbus A319neo. The aircraft, it says, carries 12 more passengers 400 nautical miles further and with “7% lower operating costs per seat.”