Blowin' in the Wind

It’s ‘wind on’ for the MAX in Seattle this week. The final phase of 737 MAX wind tunnel testing is well underway to establish the low- and high-speed performance of the new engine variant of the ever popular 737.

Last month, engineers started the tests at QinetiQ’s facility in Farnborough, U.K., where testing of the low-speed performance of the airplane is still happening. On March 19, the high-speed testing began at Boeing’s transonic wind tunnel in Seattle.


737 model in the Boeing transonic wind tunnel in Seattle on March 21.

The photo above shows the baseline model of the Next-Generation 737 undergoing high-speed tests, which will establish the baseline for the 737 MAX. As the tests go forward, the team will update the model to incorporate the minor changes we’re making for the MAX and the larger engine nacelles. These initial test runs will give our engineers a baseline of the current airplane’s performance that they can compare to the MAX’s optimized design.

The wind tunnel can get up to speeds of Mach 1.1 or 750-760 mph, allowing us to test the airplane design at speeds it would experience during cruise. While fewer tests are needed because “modern computational fluid dynamics tools” (wow, that takes me back to my engineering days) allow our designers to consider and run virtual experiments on designs, the testing in the wind tunnel is critical to validating the computer modeling. In this case, the answers are literally found blowin’ in the wind.

As the 737 MAX team continues to make great progress towards a firm configuration of the MAX in 2013, the airplane continues to attract a lot of interest from our customers. We have more than 1,000 orders and commitments for the MAX from a total of 16 customers worldwide.

Comments (5)

Jozsef Meszaros (Gyomro, Hungary):

dear Randy,

how much can we know about the quietness of the new engines of the 737? is a Dreamliner noise level to expect? because the 737 is a very popular airplane all around the world - and its noise level must be crucial, too...

thank you, Joe

Joseph (Dallas):

Good to see the Max is moving along nicely. Please keep us posted on more of these steps Randy.

Keesje (Netherlands):

I think still nothing beats a (large enough) wind tunnel model in terms of speed, costs and reliability at this time. I guess there's in going to be some interesting CFD work around the engine pylon on the MAX. Good luck to all involved and I hope the many commitments become profitable, signed orders soon.

Val (Lexington, KY, USA):

Randy, although I'm not with Boeing, I think it's great that you're doing this! Thanks.

Norman (Long Beach, CA):

Though computer simulations do a lot of the work, there is nothing like the old model and wind tunnel to back up all the information.

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