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Boeing 737 History, the story behind this hugely successful City Jet.

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Boeing 737 History

In 1964 the concept of a cheaper twin-engined jet transport was floated by Boeing.  Building on the designs of the Boeing 707 and Boeing 727, the concept came to fruition in 1967 in the form of the Boeing 737 100. The initial specification called for 50 – 60 seats, however, in consultation with launch customer, Lufthansa who had 21 aircraft on order, this was increased to 100 seats. Only 30 Boeing 737 100s were produced. In April 1965 United Airlines placed an order for 40 aircraft but they required a slightly larger version.  Boeing complied by stretching the Boeing 737 100 design by 91cm (36 inches). This new variant became the Boeing 737 200 and was preferred by airlines compared to the 737 100.

A slow order book in 1970 caused Boeing to consider selling off the design. The cancellation of the Supersonic Transport project, however, freed up funds and Boeing offered a convertible version of the 737. Dubbed the Boeing 737C. This aircraft featured a 340 cm × 221 cm (130 in × 87 in) door just behind the cockpit which allowed for the loading of palletised cargo. The Boeing 737 QC (Quick Change) was also offered which enabled palletised seating and cargo. Airlines could fly passengers by day and then cargo by night. These models were offered in both Boeing 737 100 and Boeing 737 200 air-frames.

An Air Niugini Boeing 737-700 climbs out at Sydney.

Toward the end of the 1970s, Boeing realised that to keep pace with the market they had to update and modernise the Boeing 737. At the Farnborough air show of 1980, initial specifications for what would become the Boeing 737 300 were released. This aircraft was larger with a seating capacity of 149 and a lengthening of the fuselage by 2.87 metres (9ft 5in) as well as an increase to the wingspan of 53cm (1ft 9in). The original Pratt and Whitney JT8D-1 low bypass engines which sat under the wing protruding fore and aft were replaced by CFM56-3B-1 high bypass engines. Due to the low ground clearance of the aircraft the engines were hung on pylons from the wings to sit ahead of the wings. The air intakes were also not circular but rather flattened at the bottom to aid with ground clearance. Wing aerodynamics were improved as well as the offering of IFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation Systems) cockpits.

October of 1988 saw a further stretch to the Boeing 737 in the form of the Boeing 737 400, a variant which added an additional 3 metres (10 feet) to the fuselage length thus enabling a 170 seat capacity.

Not all airline customers required the extra capacity offered by the newer versions of the Boeing 737. The Boeing 737 500 was launched in 1987 as a replacement for the Boeing 737 200. Being 48cm (1ft 7in) longer than the Boeing 737 200 and powered by the newer CFM56-3 high bypass engines the Boeing 737 500 showed a 25% fuel saving over the older variant.

A Malev Hungarian Airlines Boeing 737-600.

The late eighties and early nineties saw serious competition offered by Airbus with their Airbus A320 model.  In 1991 Boeing began development on a new generation of aircraft. The Boeing 737 NG (Next Generation) group of aircraft includes the Boeing 737 600, Boeing 737 700, Boeing 737 800 and Boeing 737 900. This was the most significant update to the Boeing 737 so far, resulting in an all-new aircraft performance-wise, but still retaining important commonality with previous versions. The wing was redesigned with greater chord and updated airfoil sections. The wingspan was increased by 4.9 metres (16 feet) giving a wing area increase of 25%. Coupled with the new CFM56-7B engines and increased fuel capacity the range was increased by 900NM to 3,000NM. Winglets were also offered. Modern avionics were offered as well as a modern cabin which was taken from the Boeing 777.

An Air Vanuatu Boeing 737 800 lands at Sydney.

A Boeing 737 History Timeline.

11 May 1964 Original design work of Boeing 737 begins.
19 February 1965 Lufthansa orders 21 aircraft becoming the launch customer.
05 April 1965 United Airlines orders 40 Boeing 737s but wanting a longer version, the Boeing 737 200 is developed which is 193 centimetres longer than the original aircraft which is re-designated the Boeing 737 100.
December 1966 Six Boeing 737 100 prototypes roll off the production line.
17 January 1967 The first production Boeing 737 100 rolls off the production line.
09 April 1967 The Boeing 737 100 makes its maiden flight.
29 June 1967 The first Boeing 737 200 rolls off the production line.
08 August 1967 The Boeing 737 200 makes its maiden flight.
15 December 1967 The Boeing 737 100 receives certificate A16WE from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for commercial flight.
21 December 1967 The Boeing 737 200 received FAA certification.
28 December 1967 The first Boeing 737 100 was delivered to Lufthansa. Only 30 Boeing 737 100s were ever produced.
28 April 1968 United Airlines makes its inaugural flight of the Boeing 737 200 from Chicago to Grand Rapids.
May 1971 The Boeing 737 200 Advanced was introduced, giving higher engine thrust and higher fuel capacity. This increased the payload and range over the original Boeing 737 200 by some 15 per cent.
20 May 1971 The first Boeing 737 200 Advanced was put into service by All Nippon Airways.
June 1971 The Boeing 737 200 Advanced became the standard for the production of the Boeing 737 200
31 July 1973 The first military variant of the Boeing 737 200, designated T-43 was produced.
19 July 1974
May 1982 The Indonesian Air Force received the first of three Boeing 737 200 derivatives designated 737-2×9 Surveillers to be used for maritime surveillance. The type featured SLAMMAR (Side-looking Multi-mission Airborne Radar).
October 1983 The Indonesian Air Force 737-2×9 order is completed.
24 February 1984 The prototype of the Boeing 737 300, the 1,001st 737 built, makes its maiden flight.
19 February 1988 The Boeing Boeing 737 400 makes its maiden flight.
08 August 1988 The last Boeing 737 200 is delivered to Xiamen Airlines, 1,114 of the type having been produced.
30 June 1989 The Boeing 737 500 makes its maiden flight.
28 February 1990 Launch customer, Southwest Airlines took delivery of their first Boeing 737 500.
17 November 1993 In response to competition from the Airbus A320, Boeing announced the Boeing 737 NG (Next Generation) aircraft.
08 December 1996 The Boeing 737 700, first of the 737NG family rolls off the production line.
09 February 1997 The Boeing 737 700, the 2,843rd 737 built, makes its maiden flight.
30 June 1997 The Boeing Boeing 737 800 rolls off the production line.
31 July 1997 The Boeing 737 800 makes its maiden flight.
December 1997 The Boeing 737 600 rolls off the production line.
22 January 1998 The Boeing 737 600 makes its maiden flight.
11 August 1998 The business jet derivative of the Boeing 737 700 with modifications rolls off the assembly line designated BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) (later BBJ1).
18 September 1998 The first production Boeing 737 600 is delivered to launch customer, Scandinavian Airlines
26 July 1999 The final Boeing 737 500, the 389th aircraft of the type produced, was delivered to All Nippon Airways.
17 December 1999 The Final Boeing 737 300, the 1,113th aircraft of the type, is delivered to Air New Zealand.
25 February 2000 The final Boeing 737 400, the 486th aircraft of the type, was delivered to CSA Czech Airlines.
28 February 2001 The first Boeing business jet designated BBJ2 and based on the Boeing 737 800 is delivered.
15 May 2001 Alaska Airlines takes delivery of the first Boeing 737 900, so far the most powerful Boeing 737 built.
14 June 2004 Boeing wins the tender to replace the P3-Orion maritime patrol aircraft with the Boeing 737 800ERX (Extended Range). It is designated P8- Poseidon.
30 January 2006 Boeing launches the Boeing 737 700ER.
13 February 2006 Boeing delivers the 5,000th Boeing 737 to Southwest Airlines.
08 August 2006 The first Boeing 737 900ER rolls of the Renton, Washington assembly line.
16 February 2007 Launch customer All Nippon Airways receives its first Boeing 737 700ER
27 April 2007 Lion Air of Indonesia take delivery of the first Boeing 737 900ER
31 March 2008 The final Boeing 737 200 services are phased out after 40 years of service.
July 2008 From now on all Boeing 737s are fitted with carbon brakes manufactured by Messier-Bugatti. Weighing 250-320Kg (550-700lb) less than the previously used steel brakes they represent a 0.5% reduction in fuel burn on a Boeing 737 800.
August 2008 The first Boeing business jet designated BBJ3 based on the Boeing 737 900ER is produced.
April 2009 Boeing delivers the 6,000th Boeing 737 to Norwegian Air Shuttle.
20 July 2011 Boeing announces plans for a new Boeing 737 variant to be powered by CFM International Leap X engines.
30 August 2011 Boeing confirms the plans to produce the Boeing 737 MAX powered by CFM International Leap 1B engines.
13 December 2011 Southwest places an order for the Boeing 737 MAX thus becoming the launch customer.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 in flight.

If there is more you want to learn about this airliner, please visit: Boeing 737 Home, Boeing 737 Specs, Boeing 737 Interior, Boeing 737 Order Book,  Boeing 737 Assembly and Boeing 737 Max.
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7 thoughts on “Boeing 737 History, the story behind this hugely successful City Jet.”

  1. Do any of you commercial Boeing 737 experts recall an issue with early versions -100 and or -200 related to restrictions regarding abilities to operate at high altitude airports
    I seem to recall United? would/could not use Denver? airport

    1. Hi,
      I have done some checking and not found any reference to this. If anyone has any info around this, it would be interesting to share that.
      Cheers Peter

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  4. Thanks, I used this information for a PowerPoint presentation, don’t worry I included it in credits so no plagiarizing done 🙂

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