Sunday, April 9, 2017

Happy 50th Birthday to the Boeing B737!

Fifty years ago today, on Sunday 9 April 1967, the first Boeing B737-130, N73700 (c/n 19437, l/n 1) made its maiden flight from Boeing Field in Seattle.

The B737 series is the best-selling jet commercial airliner in history. The B737 has been continuously manufactured by Boeing since 1967 with 9,448 aircraft delivered and 4,506 orders yet to be fulfilled as of March 2017. Assembly of the 737 is performed at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington, USA.

The first airline to operate the B737 was Lufthansa.

The B737-200 was a stretched version of the original, first ordered by United. In Australia, Ansett was the first operator of the Boeing B737-200 in Australia.

Ansett B737-200 VH-CZM at Melbourne in 1981  (Aero Icarus /

In the years since, Ansett, along with Australian Airlines / Qantas Airways (incl Qantas Freight / Australian Air Express), National Jet Systems (now Cobham Aviation), Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia), Alliance Airlines, Our Airline / Nauru Airlines (including on behalf of Norfolk Air), Toll Freight (incl Airwork New Zealand) and HeavyLift Cargo Airlines have all operated the 'classic' series of B737-300 and B737-400 aircraft, of which some 2000 were delivered, which also includes the shorter-bodied B737-500.

Ansett B737-300 VH-CZH at Adelaide Airport  (Tony Haynes /

Ansett B737-300 VH-CZA at Adelaide Airport  (Tony Haynes /

Australian Airlines B737-300 VH-TAX at Melbourne Airport  (Peter Lea /  

Qantas B737-400 VH-TJF at Brisbane Airport in 2006

Australian Air Express B737-300SF VH-XMB at Cairns Airport in 2009

Qantas Freight B737-300SF VH-XML at Mackay Airport in 2016

National Jet System B737-300 VH-NJE at Adelaide  (Tony Haynes /

Virgin Blue's first ever aircraft - B737-400 VH-VGA - at Brisbane Airport in 2001

Virgin Blue operated B737-300 VH-CZQ in the early 2000's

Our Airline B737-300 VH-INU landing at Rockhampton Airport in 2011

Nauru Airlines B737-300 VH-XNU at Gladstone Airport  (Photo taken by 'Mick'  ©)

It was also interesting to note that in the late 2000's, OzJet Airlines imported and operated four early-model Boeing B737-200s on their scheduled services on the East Coast and out of Perth (including on behalf of Norfolk Air).  Sadly OzJet ceased flying in 2012.

OzJet B737-200 VH-OZU at Brisbane Airport in 2006

Presently, Boeing produce the 'Next Generation' of B737 aircraft - currently offering B737-700 through to B737-900(ER) model aircraft - of which many examples of the B737-800 are operated by both Virgin Australia (incl Tigerair) and Qantas, while two B737-700s are still operated by Virgin Australia.  The B737-600 is no longer on the Boeing website.

Virgin Blue's first 'Next Generation' B737-700 VH-VBA at Brisbane Airport in 2006

Virgin Blue B737-700 VH-VBY in 100th B737 colours at Brisbane Airport in 2007

Virgin Australia B737-700 VH-VBY on approach to Mackay Airport

Virgin Blue B737-800 VH-VOA at Brisbane Airport in 2006

Virgin Blue B737-800 VH-VOA at Brisbane Airport in 2007 with winglets

Virgin Australia's latest B737-800 VH-YIY taxis at Brisbane Airport

Virgin Samoa B737-800 departs Townsville Airport

Tigerair B737-800 VH-VOR departs Townsville Airport  (Photo taken by Dave  ©)

Qantas B737-800 VH-VZM lands at Rockhampton Airport  (Photo taken by 'IAD'  ©)

Boeing B737 'Next Generation' aircraft also fly in Australia and through CQ in several military guises, predominantly by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The RAAF operates a pair of Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) aircraft which are primarily a B737-700 commercial airframe with modifications to provide for private jet service. As operated by the RAAF's VIP 34 Squadron based at RAAF Base Fairbairn in Canberra, the 'BBJ1' is based on a B737-700 airframe, with elements from the B737-800.

RAAF BBJ A36-001 landing at Rockhampton Airport  (Photo taken by 'IAD'  ©)

Originally requested by the RAAF, the Boeing B737 AEW&C aircraft is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control aircraft and mounts a fixed, active electronically scanned array radar antenna instead of a rotating one (as seen on the B707-based Boeing E-3 Sentry).  The B737 AEW&C aircraft was designed for the RAAF under "Project Wedgetail" and designated as the E-7A Wedgetail.  The B737 AEW&C aircraft is roughly based on the B737-700ER.

RAAF E-7A Wedgetail A30-004 overshoots at Rockhampton Airport  (Photo taken by 'IAD'  ©)

The RAAF are also in the middle of taking delivery of 12 Boeing P-8A Poseidon Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) aircraft as the preferred aircraft to replace the RAAF's fleet of Lockheed AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.  The aircraft has been developed by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, modified from the B737-800ERX.

The RAAF's first P-8A Poseidon A47-001 on finals at Townsville Airport  (Photo taken by Leroy  ©)

Finally, as for the future of the Boeing B737, there are over 3700 orders in place for the 737MAX, with Southwest Airlines as the launch customer.

Happy birthday to the all-time best-selling commercial aircraft!

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