In the early 1960s, the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing led the development of passenger jets. Its four-engined Boeing 707 was not the first passenger jet airliner, but it turned out to be the first commercially successful one.
Soon development started on a smaller three-engined Boeing 727, primarily designed to service domestic flights in the US. Soon, however, Boeing came under pressure by other aircraft makers who offered even lighter and cheaper jets, capable of operating from smaller airfields. Thus, Boeing began an urgent development programme concentrating on a 100-seater, capable of flying a distance of some 2500 km, or 1553 miles, which would enable it to rapidly gain ground on its rivals.
In order to cut costs, the decision was made to reduce the size of the Boeing 727. Since the new aircraft was to carry around a third less passengers, the body of the Boeing 727 was shortened. The lighter plane rendered the third engine superfluous. The aircraft turned out to be fairly short, something that made placing the engines in the back unsuitable.
After some hesitation, the two engines were placed directly beneath the wing, and the removal of the engines from the back of the plane not only lightened the construction, but also allowed the horizontal stabiliser to be moved down from the top of the fin. This is how the classic design of almost all the passenger planes flying today came into being – somewhat accidentally.
The Boeing 737-100 made its maiden flight on 9 April 1967. The American firm quickly received some 185 orders, and the airline companies insisted on a slightly larger modification for 130 passengers (the 737-200 model).
The story of the Boeing 737
Very soon, however, the programme encountered difficulties. The early 1970s were marked by a serious economic downturn. The orders for the 737 dropped several-fold, and the entire engineering and financial potential of the company went into the development of the giant Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. There were some ideas to stop production of the 737 and even to sell its production rights to another aircraft builder. But the economic crisis passed and the main advantage of the 737 over its rivals quickly became evident – the wider body allowed for six seats in one row (3+3), in contrast to most of its rivals, which were only able to fit in four or five seats. So despite being a similar size, the 737 was able to transport a larger number of passengers.
The beginning of the 1980s heralded the arrival of the revolutionary CFM56 engine, which provided more traction with less fuel consumption and a significantly reduced noise level. Boeing based
the next generation 737 on this engine.
This generation became known as the Classic and set new standards for the transport of passengers in the 1980s and early 1990s. Instead of developing a completely new aircraft, Boeing embarked on the thorough modernisation of the good old 737.
A completely new and bigger wing was designed, a new, more economic version of the CFM56 engine was created, the plane and cockpit interior was greatly improved. This evolution was dubbed the‘Next Generation’ and was put into production in the late 1990s.
Boeing 737 Next Generation fleet;
The Next Generation fleet comes in four base models. The Boeing 737-600, Boeing 737-700 and Boeing 737-800 are direct substitutes of the 500, 300 and 400 models of the previous generation. The family of heavy corporate aircraft grouped as the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) is based on them.
The Boeing 737-900 model was put into production at the turn of the 21st century. This is the largest representative of the Boeing 737 family, designed to transport 200 passengers over a distance of close to 5000 km (3106 miles). In comparison with the Boeing 737-100 developed in the 1960s, the new Boeing 737-900 boasts twice the passenger capacity and two-times the flight duration.
Today, the Boeing 737 is still the golden goose of Boeing. Its 6000th plane was delivered at the beginning of 2009, and there are another 2000 on order. It is still too early to speak of a general replacement of the Boeing 737. According to different estimates, between 6000 and 7000 planes from the Boeing 737 family are currently in operation. The aircraft are used by over 600 airline companies across the world, and since 1968.