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Boeing 737

By Patrick Mondout

Boeing lead the way in commercial aviation in the mid-60s due to the 707 and 727, but was losing ground in the low-end of the market due to the BAC One-Eleven and Douglas' newly announced the DC-9. Airlines continued to replace their aging DC-6 and DC-7 on short routes with smaller jets and the 727 was just too big and had too many engines (more engines = more fuel) to be economical.

Boeing, which was quite happy filling backorders for 707s, 727s, and even 720s, finally responded by announcing the "Baby Boeing" 737 in February of 1965.

The first test flight of a 737 took place at Boeing in Renton, Washington on April 9, 1967. It was over two years since the announcement and there were zero orders from U.S. airlines. Boeing officials were busy with the SST and what would become the 747 and were not sure the demand would be enough to justify producing the aircraft. 

Lufthansa became the first foreign carrier to launch an American airliner with it's order later that year.

Coupled with the Douglas DC-9, the 737 allowed the American aircraft builders to once again shut out the British and their BAC-111 in the short-haul market.

Boeing 737

The 737 will soon celebrate its 40th birthday and will still be in production. No other jet has lasted as long on the production line.

Image courtesy NASA/Dryden

If you've ever flown Southwest Airlines, you've flown a 737; all of Southwest's aircraft are 737s (though they did fly a few 727s between 1978 and 1985).

While it suffered growing pains and slow sales in the 60s, the 737 went on to become the best selling commercial jet of all time.

Boeing 737 at a Glance
Engines2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-15 turbofans
Cruising Speed585
Length96ft 11in
BuiltWell over 3000 (continues to be built)
Final ProductionN/A
Mesurements refer to 737-200


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about the Boeing 737? Were you a member of the flight crew on one? Have you any interesting stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"My all-time favorite aircraft. I was a "road warrior" for some years and enjoyed my B-737 flights the most. It had the quietest and most comfortable first class cabin. About five years ago, I sat next to a Continental Airlines pilot deadheading back to Bush IAH in Houston who was a 737 pilot. According to him, the 737 was the last of the "slide rule" airplanes, built before the use of computer technology. He also said it was the only commercial aircraft that could make up any significant time in the air because it could cruise easily at greater than normal throttle setting. He also said its wing design wouldn't permit it to fly very slowly, and that's why they often seemed to land so rough....the aircraft would get too slow to fly and just drop to the runway. I don't know how much of what he said is true, I just know I loved flying in them. Alas, they made too much noise and were impossible to fit with shrouds. While not the first jet, I think it's the most significant in terms of capabilities and numbers produced.....sort of the DC-3 of the turbine era."


"The Boeing 737 (namely the -200 Advanced series) has to be one of my favorite aircraft, maybe even holding the top spot. I think it's amazing that this aircraft, which, mind you, was almost cancelled due to poor sales, would go on to become the best selling jetliner in the world - still surpassing its competitors today with well over 3,000 produced - and still more on order!
I've probably flown on more 737's than any other aircraft. I like the way they sound - especially the old -200 series with the Pratt&Whitney turbofans. They make a nice loud rumble noise in the cabin - and from outside they sound like Saturn Rockets (Another product of the Super70s, I might add!)!!! The new ones, of course, are very quiet…"

--Eric Cantu

"The 737 holds a somewhat grisly title due to the closeness of its engines to the ground. Jet engines don't just produce thrust, they also produce a great deal of suction at the front end. Careless ground crew workers walking in front of running 737 engines have been sucked in. Most of them didn't survive, and the '37 has gained a reputation as a killer. Though the number of people ingested is actually quite low given the decades this this aircraft has been in service."

--Hungry Joe

"Boeing 737 in Brazil: The 737 was the main jet used for domestic flights by Brazil's biggest airline, Varig, since 1975. It was operated in a flight that crossed almost the entire Brazilian territory, from North to South, which was: Belém, Marabá, Brasília (the country's capital), Goiânia, Uberlândia, Uberaba and São Paulo (the biggest city). In the Awesome80s, when I was a child, I used to live in Uberaba, and there were 2 daily flight with Boeing 737-200. I lived near the airport, and I always heard the landings and take-off: it was imposible not to hear, since the 737-200 is very noisy indeed. In the 90's they replaced the 737-200 with a near version, the 500, which is much quieter. Now there are no longer 737-200 operating in Brazil, but its newer versions are widely used: 300, 400, 500 and 700.

It is noteworthy that, during almost two decades operating the 737-200 in the forementioned route, there was only one crash, in 1989, and it was due to a crew mistake, who made a confusion in cruise flight and got lost over Northern Brazil. They were over the Amazon forest, where (at that time) there was no radar coverage, so they couldn't ask to ground control to locate them. When they ran out of fuel they had to make an emergency landing. Although they were landing over the jungle in complete darkness, there were very few casualties, and most of the people in the plane survived. This shows how reliable and strong the 737 is!"

--Carlo Moiana



Image courtesy of Boeing

Model: 737

Manufacturer: Boeing

Country: US

First Flight: April 9, 1967

First Passenger Flight: February 10, 1968

Launch CustomerLufthansa

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