The 737 concept first hit the drawing boards back in 1964 and is now the world’s most popular aircraft having carried more than 22 billion people since that time. Right now, there is a 737 taking off or landing every one and a half seconds.
Boeing handed over the 10,000th Boeing 737 ever made to US Carrier Southwest Airlines (the world’s biggest 737 operator) this week. The event cemented their Guinness World record for the most produced commercial jet, a distinction it has had since 2006:
Boeing says there are now about 4,645 of the Boeing 737 in service with 2,800 in the air at any one time. It is the most popular “narrow body” (plane with only one aisle) ever.
The only issue is that the 737 is not popular with me. I have squeezed aboard the plane 377* times with 33 airlines taking me to 97 airports across 22 countries on five continents. (I have never flown the 737 in Africa). I have never made any secret of my ambivalence toward the 737 despite my many hours on them and the overwhelming number produced. As a passenger I have never been sure why? Is it the noise levels compared to the Airbus 320? That a 757 feels more spacious. Or the rough way the 737 appears to touch down. All I know is my heart sinks when I know I am booking on a 737.
The 737 concept started as a 60 passenger plane with a 1,600km (1,000mi) range. At one point, Boeing considered selling the design off. They are probably very glad they didn’t as the 737 has helped the company’s cash flow for 50 years! Like Star Trek, there have been several “generations” of the plane:
737 Original series-Produced 1967 to 1988
- B737-100: entered airline service in February 1968 with Lufthansa. Maximum Passengers: 124. Just 30 delivered
- B737-200: with an extended fuselage, entered service in April 1968 with United Airlines. Maximum Pax: 136. 1013 delivered
Boeing 737 Classic- Produced from 1984 to 2000
- B737-300: entered service in December 1984 with USAir, Maximum Pax: 140. 1,113 aircraft were delivered.
- B737-400: 1988 with Piedmont, 188 pax, 486 delivered
- B737-500: 1990, 132 pax. 389 delivered
737 Next Generation
- B737-600: 1998, maximum: 149 pax Just 69 delivered
- B737-700: 1997, max: 149 pax, 1126 delivered
- B737-800: 1997, Launch customer: Hapag-Lloyd of Germany, 189 pax, A massive 4,749 delivered so far
- B737-900: 2000 with Alaska Airlines as launch customer, 215 pax, 497 delivered so far
- 737 MAX 7: Expected Southwest Airlines in January 2019, maximum 138 pax
- 737 MAX 8: May 22, 2017, Malindo Air was the launch customer
- 737 MAX 200, expected to fly 2019 with Ryanair, a massive 737 customer being the first cab off the rank
- 737 MAX 9, will launch 2018 with Indonesia’s Lion Air.
Over 4,600 of the Boeing 737 are still on order. The company aims to increase its monthly production from 47 to 52-almost two a day. The order books stretch eight years.
On a more sombre note, sixty 737s have been involved in fatal crashes since the first crash landing on December 8, 1972 when United Airlines Flight 553, a 737-200 registration N9031U, crashed while attempting to land at Chicago Midway International Airport. Two people on the ground and 43 of the 61 passengers and crew on board were killed. The deadliest crash involving a 737 was Air India Express Flight 812 on 22 May 2010 when the 737-800 overshot the runway on landing at Mangaluru ran over a cliff, and caught fire. There were 158 fatalities. Considering 737s have flown more than 122 billion miles, the equivalent of five million times around Earth, 60 fatal accidents seems a very small percentage.
How many times have you flown in a 737? Do you like the aircraft? If not, which is your favorite narrow bodied aircraft?
- Qantas 737 Business between NZ and Australia
- My 350th Boeing 737 flight
- After 299 times, I still don’t like the B737!
- My 737 Milestone-200 flights
- Tuesday Trip Report: 737th trip @ 737