The Boeing 737 MAX 10 makes first test flight.

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The Boeing 737 MAX 10, the largest member of the single-aisle aircraft family, took off Friday on its first test flight.

In an unusual departure from the PR buzz surrounding first flights, the event was being kept deliberately low-key as Boeing tries to navigate overlapping crises caused by the 20-month grounding in the wake of two crashes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

See also: Ryanair finally takes delivery first Boeing 737 MAX 8-200.

The plane departed at 10:07 a.m. from the Renton Municipal airport near Seattle under clear blue skies, presaging months of testing and safety certification work before it is expected to enter service in 2023, Reuters reported.

The flight showcased a revamped landing gear system that illustrates the industry’s battle to squeeze as much mileage as possible out of the current generation of single-aisle aircraft.

See also: U.S. Talking to China on Boeing Max Approval.

It raises the landing gear’s height during take-off and landing, a design needed to compensate for the MAX 10’s extra length and prevent the tail scraping the runway on take-off.

Boeing’s 230-seat 737-10 is designed to close the gap between its 178-to-220-seat 737-9, and Airbus’s 185-to-240-seat A321neo, which dominates the top end of the narrowbody jet market.

However, the market opportunity for the 737 MAX 10 is constrained by the jet’s range of 3,300 nautical miles (6,100 km), which falls short of the A321neo’s 4,000 nm.

Boeing must also complete safety certification of the plane under a tougher regulatory climate following two fatal crashes of a smaller 737 MAX version grounded the model for nearly two years – with a safety ban still in place in China.

While the smaller MAX 8 is Boeing’s fastest-selling jet, slow sales of the MAX 9 and 10 models have put Boeing at a disadvantage to the A321neo.

Even so, Boeing says it is confident in the MAX 10, and it is stepping up efforts to sell more of the jet, with key targets, including Ireland’s Ryanair.

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