In 1967, the Beatles released Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Vietnam war was raging with no end in sight and the world saw the first ATM installed in London. In the same year, the first Boeing 737 aircraft rolled off the assembly line at Boeing Field, Washington state. It took to the skies for the first time on April 9, 1967, beginning an illustrious career as the world’s flying bus. And so it’s with great admiration that we honour 50 years of the Boeing 737.
Since its debut, over 9,400 737s have been produced, making it the most successful aircraft ever made. Estimates suggest that at any given time, at least 1,250 of these planes will be in the air. More astonishingly, one will take of or land somewhere in the world every 5 seconds. Since its conception in 1964 with the 737-100 and the -200, three additional series have been built. These comprise the Classics (737-300, -400, -500), the Next Generation series (737-600, -700, -800, -900ER) and the upcoming MAX series.
Despite its current success, the airframe has seen its share of troubles. In the early years, the attention was understandably on its big brother, the gleaming new 747 which wowed with its size. The subsequently oil crisis of the 1970s also put a question mark on the future of the 737. And then in the 1980s, the emergence of the Airbus A320 as a major competitor threatened its dominance. And yet in spite of these setbacks, the 737 has gone from strength to strength.
The latest generation of the 737, the MAX series, is due to enter commercial service with Malindo Air this year. With an order book that’s in the thousands, the 737 will surely be with us for decades to come. On this historic occasion we can think of no airplane more deserving of accolade. If you happen to be flying a Boeing 737 on April 9 this year, be sure to whisper “happy birthday”.
Main image courtesy Virgin Australia Corporate Communications.