SARASOTA - A Boeing 737-Max aircraft this week will conduct low-altitude flight tests over Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The aircraft will fly at 1,500 feet from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport to the Gulf of Mexico, which is strikingly low for an airplane of that size, said Lionel Guilbert, operations manager for the airport. The Sarasota region was selected as the test site for its new LEAP engine because of its low airport elevation and its warm temperature.
The test aircraft will fly the shortest possible route to the gulf at 1,500 feet while keeping its landing gear down. Guilbert expects the tests may appear odd to some onlookers, but he stressed there is no cause for concern. Emergency services in both counties have been notified of the tests.
“We did some flights yesterday, and we haven’t had any issues yet,” Guilbert said. “They stay at that 1,500 feet over the county, and we don’t want people to be alarmed when they see them.”
Boeing is running about four tests per day that last about 10 minutes each. Tests began on Sunday and were scheduled to continue Monday, Tuesday and potentially into Wednesday, Guilbert said. The aircraft is expected to leave Sarasota on Thursday for South America.
The Boeing 737-Max’s appearance is not unlike existing Boeing 737-800, which features double blended winglets, and a 20 foot longer fuselage.
The 737 Max program launched in 2011, and the model completed its first flight in February. At that time, the program had amassed more than 3,000 orders from 62 customers around the world, according to a press release from Boeing.
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