It’s fair to say that the Boeing 737 MAX series has had a difficult few years. 2019 saw the type grounded worldwide due to safety concerns, and 2020 was challenging for the entire aviation industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, the program seems to have turned a corner, with the MAX 10 taking its first flight in June 2021. This is the largest variant, and its landing gear is interesting in that it extends. But how exactly does it work?
An innovative landing gear system
At face value, the Boeing 737 MAX 10 appears to merely be a stretched version of the next size down, namely the MAX 9. At 43.8 meters in length, it is just over 1.6 meters longer than the MAX 9, and subsequently has a slightly higher maximum capacity (230 vs 220). However, another area in which the MAX 10 differs from its siblings is its landing gear.
Due to the increased fuselage length, using the MAX’s standard landing gear would run the risk of tail strikes on takeoff. As such, Boeing has developed a mechanism that allows the gear to extend and retract at the appropriate times. So how does this system work?
To provide necessary clearance during the aircraft’s rotation on departure, there is a lever that allows the gear’s structure to increase by 24 cm in height. This does so through the means of a steel compressing mechanism that pulls on a cylinder.
However, Boeing also wanted to retain commonality between the MAX 10 and its smaller counterparts by retaining the same wheel well in which to store the gear inflight. As such, it developed a so-called ‘shrink link’ mechanism. This technology ensures that the extended section retracts suitably in time for the gear to be stored as normal.
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A source of satisfaction
While producing such an innovative mechanism was far from an easy task, the end result provided great satisfaction for those involved. Speaking in August 2018, the 737 MAX series’ Chief Project Engineer, Gary Hamatani, stated that:
“Our engineering teams have spent many months designing, testing, and proving this new, levered gear mechanism. It’s satisfying to be able to see and touch these first parts that will eventually help the very first MAX 10 roll out of the Renton factory. We really challenged our team to come up with this innovative gear design, and they’ve just knocked it out of the park.”
What’s next for the MAX 10?
At the time of writing, the Boeing 737 MAX 10 had just reached an important milestone, namely that of its first-ever test flight. This took place on June 18th, 2021, with the aircraft in question departing Renton Municipal Airport (RNT), adjacent to Boeing’s factory there.
Despite this milestone having been reached, it will still be a while yet before Boeing’s largest 737 MAX series aircraft can enter active commercial service. As Simple Flying reported in February 2021, the US planemaking juggernaut doesn’t expect that it will be able to deliver its first MAX 10 until 2023. United Airlines is set to be its biggest customer.
Indeed, the US legacy carrier and Star Alliance founding member has reportedly ordered 100 examples of the type. It will be interesting to see if the delay to its introduction hurts the MAX 10, considering that the Airbus A321neo, a key competitor, is already in service.
Did you know about the MAX 10’s extending landing gear? Are you looking forward to seeing the type eventually enter service in 2023? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.