Boeing’s 737 MAX program ticked another set of test and certification requirements against a spectacular backdrop at one of the world’s highest airports, El Alto at La Paz, Bolivia, yesterday.

In the first international foray by the MAX family test fleet, a MAX 8, of similar size to today’s 737-800s, used the airport’s 4050 metre altitude runway to confirm its take off and landing capabilities in thin air.

Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX program, said ““The engines and other systems performed well, as expected, under extreme conditions. That’s exactly what we wanted to see.”

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Boeing said Flight testing for the 737 MAX is on schedule with three test airplanes having completed more than 100 flights combined. The fourth and final test airplane will make its first flight in the coming weeks. The program remains on track for first delivery in the third quarter of 2017.

It would be reasonable to add that Boeing may well be able to deliver the first production MAX aircraft ahead of schedule. The test and certification program appears to have gone very smoothly and met or beaten its schedule to date.

In other developments, there are credible reports, although lacking in precise detail, of Boeing recasting the MAX family offering at the lowest and highest capacity ends of the range. Given the more successful sales record of the competing Airbus A320 NEO family, it needs to, although a revised lower capacity model appears to be pitched more at Bombardier’s CSeries family, which has sprung back into life with a big order from US carrier Delta.

The mountain that towers over El Alto is 6438 metres Illimani, making this a rare Boeing PR photo that doesn’t feature Mt Rainier or Mt Baker, which are close to Seattle.

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