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Boeing Begins New Wing Production For 737 Max

(Correction: Boeing projects 14 percent fuel savings for the MAX compared with the current Next-Generation 737, not 20 percent.)

Boeing has started building the wings for the newest model of its popular 737 single-aisle jet. It competes with the Airbus A320neo.

The first 737 MAX is scheduled to begin flight tests next year and be delivered in 2017. The MAX will use new engines, and Boeing says the jet will use 14 percent less fuel than the current 737s, known as Next-Generation.

On Tuesday, Boeing gave reporters a tour of the Renton factory, which builds 42 737s a month right now.

The MAX will be built using more automation. The company says that will allow workers to do less physically taxing repetitive work and that no job cuts are planned.

Boeing has installed four so-called Panel Assembly Line machines that will drill holes and install fasteners into the wing panels of the 737 MAX planes. The machines are made by Electroimpact, a company based in Mukilteo.

Boeing says using the machines will reduce the time it takes to manufacture the wings by 30 percent.

Airbus is ahead of Boeing in the race to deliver the newest, most fuel efficient single-aisle jets. Airbus has already begun flight tests of its A320neo, and says delivery will begin at the end of this year.

Airbus has also won more orders than Boeing. The A320neo has almost 3,800 orders compared with 2,724 for the MAX. Look here for the order comparison.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.