If you’ve taken a commercial flight in the past 50 years, there’s a good chance it was on a Boeing 737. What debuted in 1967 as a 50-seat regional jet has now spawned 220-plus-seat variants capable of transatlantic travel. The 737 has carried 30 billion passengers and it is equivalent to every person in the world travel 4 times. Do you know how the Boeing 737 evolved?
In 1964, Boeing began working on a 50-to-60 seat narrow-body airliner designed for trips between 50 and 1,000 miles. It would also be roughly half the size of Boeing’s smallest jet at the time, the 727.
The original Boeing 737 prototype never entered commercial service and instead spent a couple of decades as a NASA test platform. The plane can now be found at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
In December 1967, Boeing delivered the first production 737-100 to Lufthansa. The initial specification called for 50 – 60 seats, however, in consultation with the launch customer, Lufthansa, who had 21 aircraft on order, this number was increased to 100 seats. Only 30 of Boeing 737-100 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. This new variant became the Boeing 737-200.
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.
October of 1988 saw a further stretch to the Boeing 737 in the form of the Boeing 737-400, a variant which added 3 meters to the fuselage length thus enabling a 170-seat capacity.
The Boeing 737-500 was launched in 1987 as a replacement for the Boeing 737-200. The Boeing 737-200 remained in production until 1988.
In 1981, Boeing launched the second generation 737, called the 737 Classic. It comes in three variants. The 126-seat 737-300, the 147-seat 737-400, and the 110-seat 737-500.
In reaction to the introduction of the Airbus A320-family, Boeing launched the third-generation 737 in 1993. The Boeing 737-600,-700,-800,-900, and -900ER would become known as the Next Generation, or NG.
In 2011, Boeing launched the fourth-generation 737 called the MAX. It comes in four variants: the 172-seat MAX 7, the 210-seat MAX 8, the 220-seat MAX 9 and the 230-seat MAX 10.
All the 737 family aircraft models are divided into four generations. The first generation is called ‘Original’ models and it consists of the 737-100, 737-200 and -200 Advanced. The second generation or ‘Classic’ models consisting of the 737-300, 737-400, and 737-500. The ‘Next Generation’ variants consist of the 737-600, 737-700/-700ER, 737-800, and 737-900/-900ER. The latest or the fourth generation, called ‘MAX’ consists of the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8, and 737 MAX 9 which will replace the -700, -800 and -900/900ER versions, respectively.
What’s next, Boeing?