1967 The B737 takes flight
Alex McWhirter reports on the evolution of the ‘Baby Boeing’, now half a century old
Now 50 years old, the “Baby Boeing”is arguably the most successful and versatile commercial aircraft ever made. Originally intended to be a short-range 107-seater, the B737 has developed over the past half-century into a 180-seater jet (the B737 Max) capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
What made the B737 special was its wider cabin (the same as the long-range B707). It enabled airlines to install sixacross (3-3) seating, and to carry more passengers per flight, at a time when rivals such as the DC-9 and BAC1-11 offered 2-3 accommodation.
As a teenager in June 1968, my first B737 flight was ZurichFrankfurt with Lufthansa. Over the decades, I’ve flown B737s countless times with conventional and low-cost carriers over a variety of routes. Before the end of this summer, it will even be possible to fly Edinburgh-NewYork in a B737 Max nonstop (with Norwegian Air).
The aircraft has found favour with low-cost carriers as a true workhorse. Airlines such as Southwest and Ryanair operate nothing but huge numbers of B737s.
Since the aircraft’s launch, Boeing has had orders for almost 14,000 B737s from most airlines around the world. The latest Max variants will keep its Seattle plant busy for years to come.