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Ethiopian Airlines breaks African record with 737 MAX order

Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing yesterday announced an order for 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliners. The order represents the largest single Boeing order by number of airplanes from an African carrier.

Artist's impression of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Artist’s impression of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8.

The 737 MAX is the next generation of Boeing’s popular single-aisle commercial jet. Design of the 737 MAX is ongoing with first delivery planned for 2017.

The Ethiopian Airlines order is worth $2.1 billion at list prices and includes options and purchase rights for a further 15 737 MAX 8s. This means the order could be worth 35 aircraft if Ethiopian Airlines chooses to convert the options into outright purchases.

“The 737 MAX will form a key component of our strategic vision, enhancing our single-aisle fleet and keeping us at the forefront of African aviation,” said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Ethiopian Airlines 2013 revenues – at $2.3 billion – were the highest among airlines in Africa. Furthermore, Ethiopian Airlines is currently Africa’s most profitable airline. The 737 MAX order is part of the airline’s Vision 2025, aimed at transforming the carrier into a global player with $10 billion in revenue by 2025.

“Throughout the years, Ethiopian has consistently led the way in introducing new airplane types to passengers across Africa. Today’s record order signals its commitment to continue that tradition,” said Van Rex Gallard, Boeing’s vice president of sales for Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.

There are three main variants of the 737 MAX family, the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 which are based on the 737-700, -800 and -900ER, respectively.

Boeing says the 737 MAX will be more fuel efficient than today’s aircraft. The aircraft will feature a new version of the CFM56 engine, known as the CFM LEAP-1B.

The 737 MAX will have a new type of wingtip device designed to maximize lift. The device resembles a three-way hybrid between a blended winglet, wingtip fence, and raked wingtip. Boeing states that this new design should deliver an additional 1.5% improvement in fuel economy.

Another interesting feature is integration of the engine’s nacelle with the wing in order to reduce drag by 0.5%. Boeing is borrowing this feature from history as the first versions of the 737 had their engines almost blended with the wing.

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