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Boeing 737

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Boeing 737
A Boeing 737-200, the first mass-produced 737 model, in operation with South African Airways in 2007
Role Narrow-body aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing Commercial Airplanes
First flight April 9, 1967
Introduction February 10, 1968, with Lufthansa
Status In service
Primary users Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
American Airlines
Produced 1966present
Number built 10,571 as of December 2019[1]
Unit cost
-100: US$3.7M (1968),[2] $27.2M today
-200: US$4.0M (1968),[2] $29.4M today
-200: US$5.2M (1972),[3] $31.8M today
Variants Boeing T-43
Developed into Boeing 737 Classic
Boeing 737 Next Generation
Boeing 737 MAX

The Boeing 737 is a narrow-body aircraft produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes at its Renton Factory in Washington. Developed to supplement the 727 on short and thin routes, the twinjet retains the 707 fuselage cross-section and nose with two underwing turbofans. Envisioned in 1964, the initial 737-100 made its first flight in April 1967 and entered service in February 1968 with Lufthansa. The lengthened 737-200 entered service in April 1968. It evolved through four generations, offering several variants for 85 to 215 passengers.

The -100/200 original variants were powered by Pratt & Whitney JT8D low-bypass engines and offered seating for 85 to 130 passengers. Launched in 1980 and introduced in 1984, the 737 Classic -300/400/500 variants were re-engined with CFM56-3 turbofans and offered 110 to 168 seats. Introduced in 1997, the 737 Next Generation (NG) -600/700/800/900 variants have updated CFM56-7s, a larger wing and an upgraded glass cockpit, and seat 108 to 215 passengers. The latest generation, the 737 MAX -7/8/9/10, powered by improved CFM LEAP high bypass turbofans and accommodating 138 to 204 people, entered service in 2017. Boeing Business Jet versions are produced since the 737NG, as well as military models.

As of December 2019, 15,156 Boeing 737s have been ordered and 10,571 delivered.[1] Actual backlog stands at 4,398 when including "additional criteria for recognizing contracted backlog with customers beyond the existence of a firm contract".[4] It was the highest-selling commercial jetliner until being surpassed in total orders by the competing Airbus A320 family in October 2019. Before, it competed primarily with the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, then its MD-80/MD-90 derivatives. In March 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes.


Initial design

Boeing had been studying short-haul jet aircraft designs, and wanted to produce another aircraft to supplement the 727 on short and thin routes.[5] Preliminary design work began on May 11, 1964,[6] and Boeing's intense market research yielded plans for a 50- to 60-passenger airliner for routes 50 to 1,000 mi (100 to 1,600 km) long.[5][7]

The initial concept featured podded engines on the aft fuselage and a T-tail like the 727, and five-abreast seating, but engineer Joe Sutter instead placed the engines under the wings to lighten the structure, enabling fuselage widening for six-abreast seating.[8] The 737 design was presented in October 1964 at the Air Transport Association maintenance and engineering conference by chief project engineer Jack Steiner, where its elaborate high-lift devices raised concerns about maintenance costs and dispatch reliability.[8][8]

It was then decided to mount the nacelles directly to the underside of the wings to reduce the landing gear length and kept the engines low to the ground for easy ramp inspection and servicing.[9] Many thickness variations for the engine attachment strut were tested in the wind tunnel and the most desirable shape for high speed was found to be one which was relatively thick, filling the narrow channels formed between the wing and the top of the nacelle, particularly on the outboard side.

Originally, the span arrangement of the airfoil sections of the 737 wing was planned to be very similar to that of the 707 and 727, but somewhat thicker. A substantial improvement in drag at high Mach numbers was achieved by altering these sections near the nacelle.[10] The engine chosen was the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-1 low-bypass ratio turbofan engine, delivering 14,500 lbf (64 kN) thrust.[11] With the wing-mounted engines, Boeing decided to mount the horizontal stabilizer on the fuselage rather than the T-tail style of the Boeing 727.[12]


The launch decision for the $150 million development was made by the board on February 1, 1965. Lufthansa became the launch customer on February 19, 1965,[13] with an order for 21 aircraft, worth $67 million[14] in 1965, after the airline received assurances from Boeing that the 737 project would not be canceled.[15] Consultation with Lufthansa over the previous winter resulted in an increase in capacity to 100 seats.[13] This was later renamed the 737-100. It competed primarily with the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, then its MD-80/MD-90 derivatives.

On April 5, 1965, Boeing announced an order by United Airlines for 40 737s. United wanted a slightly larger airplane than the original 737, so Boeing stretched the fuselage 36 in (91 cm) ahead of, and 40 in (102 cm) behind the wing.[12] The longer version was designated 737-200, with the original short-body aircraft becoming the 737-100.[16]

Detailed design work continued on both variants at the same time. Boeing was far behind its competitors when the 737 was launched; rival aircraft BAC-111, Douglas DC-9, and Fokker F28 were already into flight certification.[14] To expedite development, Boeing used 60% of the structure and systems of the existing 727, the most notable being the fuselage cross-section. This fuselage permitted six-abreast seating compared to the rival BAC-111 and DC-9's five-abreast layout.[13]


The initial assembly of the Boeing 737 was adjacent to Boeing Field (now officially named King County International Airport) because the factory in Renton was filled to capacity with the production of the 707 and 727. After 271 of the Boeing 737 aircraft were built, production was moved to Renton in late 1970.[15]

It was the highest-selling commercial jetliner until being surpassed in total orders by the competing Airbus A320 family in October 2019. A significant portion of fuselage assemblypreviously done by Boeing in Wichita, Kansasis now performed by Spirit AeroSystems, which purchased some of Boeing's assets in Wichita.[17][18] Key to increasing production efficiencies, the entire fuselage is shipped since the 737 Next Generation while it was sent in two pieces before.[19]

The fuselage is joined with the wings and landing gear and then moves down the assembly line for the engines, avionics, and interiors. After rolling out the aircraft, Boeing tests the systems and engines before a plane's maiden flight to Boeing Field, where it is painted and fine-tuned before delivery to the customer.[20] The first of six -100 prototypes rolled out in December 1966 and made its maiden flight on April 9, 1967, piloted by Brien Wygle and Lew Wallick.[21]

Production outsourcing

Sales were low in the early 1970s[22] and, after a peak of 114 deliveries in 1969, only 22 737s were shipped in 1972 with 19 in backlog. The US Air Force saved the program by ordering T-43s, which was a modified Boeing 737-200. African airline orders kept the production running until the 1978 US Airline Deregulation Act where demand was better for a six-abreast narrow-body aircraft, particularly re-engined with the CFM56, struggling at the time.[8]

In 1990, Boeing was producing 80% of key-components in house, including wings, fuselage and tail assemblies before the company contracted out such production to other suppliers.[22] By outsourcing, Boeing achieved better financial returns and redistributed the financial risk. By 2012, suppliers, particularly for 737NG series, were responsible for producing the bulk of the airframe, while in-house production accounted for less than 40% of a plane's parts.

Further developments

The original 737 continued to be developed into thirteen major variants. These were later divided into what has became known as the four generations of the 737:

  • The first "Original" generation: the 737-100 and -200, also the military T-43 and C-43, launched February 1965.
  • The second "Classic" generation: 737-300, -400 and 500 series, launched in 1979.
  • The third generation "NG" series: 737-600, -800 and 900 series, also the military C-40 and P-8, launched late 1993.
  • The fourth generation 737 MAX series, launched August 2011.

Boeing 737 generations

737 Original (first generation)

The "Original" models consisted of the 737-100, 737-200 and the 200 Advanced:


The initial model was the 737-100, which was launched in February 1965. The -100 was rolled out on January 17, 1967, had its first flight on April 9, 1967, and entered service with Lufthansa in February 1968. The aircraft is the smallest variant of the 737. A total of 30 737-100s were ordered and delivered; the final commercial delivery took place on October 31, 1969 to MalaysiaSingapore Airlines.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued Type Certificate A16WE certifing the 737-100 for commercial flight on December 15, 1967, [23].[24] It was the first aircraft to have, as part of its initial certification, approval for Category II approaches,[25] which refers to an precision instrument approach and landing with a decision height between 98 to 197 feet (30 to 60 m).[26]

Lufthansa received its first aircraft on December 28, 1967 and on February 10, 1968, became the first non-American airline to launch a new Boeing aircraft.[23] Lufthansa was the only significant customer to purchase the 737-100 and only 30 aircraft were produced.[27] No 737-100s remain in commercial service. The original Boeing prototype was last operated by NASA, retired more than 30 years after its maiden flight and is on exhibit in the Museum of Flight in Seattle.[28]

The original engine nacelles incorporated thrust reversers taken from the 727 outboard nacelles. They proved to be relatively ineffective and tended to lift the aircraft up off the runway when deployed. This reduced the downforce on the main wheels thereby reducing the effectiveness of the wheel brakes. In 1968, an improvement to the thrust reversal system was introduced.[29] A 48-inch tailpipe extension was added and new, target-style, thrust reversers were incorporated. The thrust reverser doors were set 35 degrees away from the vertical to allow the exhaust to be deflected inboard and over the wings and outboard and under the wings. The improvement became standard on all aircraft after March 1969, and a retrofit was provided for active aircraft. Boeing fixed the drag issue by introducing new longer nacelle/wing fairings, and improved the airflow over the flaps and slats. The production line also introduced an improvement to the flap system, allowing increased use during takeoff and landing. All these changes gave the aircraft a boost to payload and range, and improved short-field performance.[23] In May 1971, after aircraft #135, all improvements, including more powerful engines and a greater fuel capacity, were incorporated into the 737-200, giving it a 15% increase in payload and range over the original -200s.[25] This became known as the 737-200 Advanced, which became the production standard in June 1971.[30]


The 737-200 had its maiden flight on August 8, 1967. It was certified by the FAA on December 21, 1967,[24][31] and the inaugural flight for United was on April 28, 1968, from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan.[23] The lengthened -200 was widely preferred over the -100 by airlines.[32] The 737-200 was a 737-100 with an extended fuselage, launched by an order from United Airlines in 1965. The -200 was rolled out on June 29, 1967, and entered service with United in April 1968. The 737-200 Advanced is an improved version of the -200, introduced into service by All Nippon Airways on May 20, 1971.[33] The -200 Advanced has improved aerodynamics, automatic wheel brakes, more powerful engines, more fuel capacity, and longer range than the -100.[34] Boeing also provided the 737-200C (Combi), which allowed for conversion between passenger and cargo use and the 737-200QC (Quick Change), which facilitated a rapid conversion between roles. The 1,095th and last delivery of a -200 series aircraft was in August 1988 to Xiamen Airlines.[1][35]

With a gravel kit modification (features preventing foreign object damage), the 737-200 can use unimproved or unpaved landing strips, such as gravel runways, that other similarly-sized jet aircraft cannot. Gravel-kitted 737-200 Combis are currently used by Canadian North, First Air, Air Inuit, Nolinor and Air North in northern Canada, where gravel runways are frequent. For many years, Alaska Airlines made use of gravel-kitted 737-200s to serve Alaska's many unimproved runways across the state.[36]

Nineteen 737-200s, designated T-43, were used to train aircraft navigators for the U.S. Air Force. Some were modified into CT-43s, which are used to transport passengers, and one was modified as the NT-43A Radar Test Bed. The first was delivered on July 31, 1973 and the last on July 19, 1974. The Indonesian Air Force ordered three modified 737-200s, designated Boeing 737-2x9 Surveiller. They were used as Maritime reconnaissance (MPA)/transport aircraft, fitted with SLAMMAR (Side-looking Multi-mission Airborne Radar). The aircraft were delivered between May 1982 and October 1983.[37]

Many 737-200s have been phased out or replaced by newer 737 versions. After 40 years, in March 2008, the final 737-200 aircraft in the U.S. flying scheduled passenger service were phased out, with the last flights of Aloha Airlines.[38] The variant still sees regular service through North American charter operators such as Sierra Pacific.[39]

In July 2018, there were a combined 58 Boeing 737-200s in service, mostly with "second and third tier" airlines, and those of developing nations.[39]

In 1970, Boeing received only 37 orders. Facing financial difficulties, Boeing considered closing the 737 production-line and selling the design to Japanese aviation companies.[15] After the cancellation of the Boeing Supersonic Transport, and scaling back of 747 production, enough funds were freed up to continue the project.[40] In a bid to increase sales by offering a variety of options, Boeing offered a 737C (Convertible) model in both -100 and -200 lengths. This model featured a 134 in × 87 in (340 cm × 221 cm) freight door just behind the cockpit, and a strengthened floor with rollers, which allowed for palletized cargo. A 737QC (Quick Change) version with palletized seating allowed for faster configuration changes between cargo and passenger flights.[41] With the improved short-field capabilities of the 737, Boeing offered the option on the -200 of the gravel kit, which enables this aircraft to operate on remote, unpaved runways.[42] Until retiring its -200 fleet in 2007, Alaska Airlines used this option for some of its combi aircraft rural operations in Alaska.[43] Northern Canadian operators Air Inuit, Air North, Canadian North, First Air and Nolinor Aviation still operate the gravel kit aircraft in Northern Canada, where gravel runways are common.

In 1988, the initial production run of the -200 model ended after producing 1,114 aircraft. The last one was delivered to Xiamen Airlines on August 8, 1988.[44][45]

737 Classic (second generation)

The Boeing 737 Classic is the name given to the -300/-400/-500 series of the Boeing 737 after the introduction of the -600/700/800/900 series:

The Classic series was originally introduced as the 'new generation' of the 737.[46] Produced from 1984 to 2000, 1,988 aircraft were delivered.[47]Development began in 1979 for the 737's first major revision. Boeing wanted to increase capacity and range, incorporating improvements to upgrade the aircraft to modern specifications, while also retaining commonality with previous 737 variants. In 1980, preliminary aircraft specifications of the variant, dubbed 737-300, were released at the Farnborough Airshow.[48]


Boeing engineer Mark Gregoire led a design team, which cooperated with CFM International to select, modify and deploy a new engine and nacelle that would make the 737-300 into a viable aircraft. They chose the CFM56-3B-1 high-bypass turbofan engine to power the aircraft, which yielded significant gains in fuel economy and a reduction in noise, but also posed an engineering challenge, given the low ground clearance of the 737 and the larger diameter of the engine over the original Pratt & Whitney engines. Gregoire's team and CFM solved the problem by reducing the size of the fan (which made the engine slightly less efficient than it had been forecast to be), placing the engine ahead of the wing, and by moving engine accessories to the sides of the engine pod, giving the engine a distinctive non-circular "hamster pouch" air intake.[49][50] Earlier customers for the CFM56 included the U.S. Air Force with its program to re-engine KC-135 tankers.[51]

The passenger capacity of the aircraft was increased to 149 by extending the fuselage around the wing by 9 feet 5 inches (2.87 m). The wing incorporated several changes for improved aerodynamics. The wingtip was extended 9 in (23 cm), and the wingspan by 1 ft 9 in (53 cm). The leading-edge slats and trailing-edge flaps were adjusted.[49] The tailfin was redesigned, the flight deck was improved with the optional EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System), and the passenger cabin incorporated improvements similar to those developed on the Boeing 757.[52] The prototype 300, the 1,001st 737 built, first flew on February 24, 1984 with pilot Jim McRoberts.[52] It and two production aircraft flew a nine-month-long certification program.[53]


In June 1986, Boeing announced the development of the 737-400,[54] which stretched the fuselage a further 10 ft (3.0 m), increasing the passenger load to 188.[55] The -400s first flight was on February 19, 1988, and, after a seven-month/500-hour flight-testing run, entered service with Piedmont Airlines that October.[56]

The -500 series was offered, due to customer demand, as a modern and direct replacement of the 737-200. It incorporated the improvements of the 737 Classic series, allowing longer routes with fewer passengers to be more economical than with the 737-300. The fuselage length of the -500 is 1 ft 7 in (48 cm) longer than the 737-200, accommodating up to 140[55] passengers. Both glass and older-style mechanical cockpits arrangements were available.[56] Using the CFM56-3 engine also gave a 25% increase in fuel efficiency over the older -200s P&W engines.[56]


The 737-500 was launched in 1987 by Southwest Airlines, with an order for 20 aircraft,[57] and flew for the first time on June 30, 1989.[56] A single prototype flew 375 hours for the certification process,[56] and on February 28, 1990, Southwest Airlines received the first delivery.[47]

After the introduction of the 600/700/800/900 series, the 300/400/500 series was called the 737 Classic series.[58]

The price of jet fuel reached a peak in 2008, when airlines devoted 40% of the retail price of an air ticket to pay for fuel, versus 15% in 2000.[59][60] Consequently, in that year carriers retired Classic 737 series aircraft to reduce fuel consumption; replacements consisted of more efficient Next Generation 737s or Airbus A320/A319/A318 series aircraft. On June 4, 2008, United Airlines announced it would retire all 94 of its Classic 737 aircraft (64 737-300 and 30 737-500 aircraft), replacing them with Airbus A320 jets taken from its Ted subsidiary, which has been shut down.[61][62][63]

737 NG (third generation)

The 737 Next Generation (NG) is the name given to the 737-600, 737-700/-700ER, 737-800, and 737-900/-900ER variants.

By the early 1990s, it had become clear that the new Airbus A320 was a serious threat to Boeing's market share, as Airbus won previously loyal 737 customers such as Lufthansa and United Airlines. In November 1993, Boeing's board of directors authorized the Next Generation program to upgrade the 737 Classic (300/-400/-500) series. The third-generation derivative of the Boeing 737, the -600, -700, -800, and -900 series, were planned.[64] After engineering trade studies and discussions with major 737 customers, Boeing proceeded to launch the 737 Next Generation (NG) -600/700/800/900 series in late 1993.[1] It has been produced since 1996, introduced in 1997, and has updated CFM56-7s, a larger wing, an upgraded glass cockpit, and seat 108 to 215 passengers, with 6,996 built as of January 2019.[22]

The 737 Next Generation featured a redesigned wing with a wider wingspan and larger area, greater fuel capacity, and higher MTOWs. It was equipped with CFM56-7 series engines, a glass cockpit, and features upgraded and redesigned interior configurations. It has a longer range and larger variants than its predecessor. The series includes four main models, the 600, -700, -800, and -900, with seating for 108 to 215 passengers. The 737NG's primary competition is with the Airbus A320 family.

As of May 2019, a total of 7,097 737NG aircraft had been ordered, of which 7,031 have been delivered, the remaining orders are in the -700 BBJ, -800, -800 BBJ and -900ER variants.[1]

The 737NG variants were developed into additional versions such as the U.S. Navy's P-8 Poseidon.

737 MAX (fourth generation)

The Boeing 737 MAX is the fourth generation of the 737, succeeding the 737 NG series.

Boeing launched the upgraded and re-engined 737 MAX program on August 30, 2011 to compete with the Airbus A320neo family. Airbus had launched the in December 2010, achieving 1,029 orders by June 2011 and breaking Boeing's monopoly with American Airlines with an order for 130 A320neos that July,[65].[66] The first flight was on January 29, 2016.[67] It gained FAA certification on March 8, 2017.[68] The first delivery was a MAX 8 on May 6, 2017 to Malindo Air,[69] which put it into service on May 22, 2017.[70]

On July 20, 2011, Boeing announced plans for a fourth generation 737 series to be powered by the CFM International LEAP-X engine, with American Airlines intending to order 100 of these aircraft.[71] On August 30, 2011, Boeing confirmed the launch of the 737 new engine variant, to be called the Boeing 737 MAX.[72][73][74][75] The 737 MAX entered service with Lion Air's subsidiary Malindo Air on May 22, 2017.

The 737 MAX is based on earlier 737 designs with more efficient CFM International LEAP-1B powerplants, aerodynamic improvements (most notably split-tip winglets), and airframe modifications. The 737 MAX series is offered in four main variants, typically offering 138 to 230 seats and a range of 3,215 to 3,825 nmi (5,954 to 7,084 km). The 737 MAX 7, MAX 8 (including the denser, 200-seat MAX 200), and MAX 9 replace, respectively, the 737-700, -800, and -900. The further stretched 737 MAX 10 has also been added to the series. As of January 2019, the 737 MAX has received 5,011 firm orders.[1]

On September 23, 2015, Boeing announced a collaboration with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. to build a completion and delivery facility for the 737 in China, the first outside the U.S.[76][77] This facility initially handles interior finishing only, but will subsequently be expanded to include paintwork. The first 737 MAX was delivered from the facility to Air China on December 15, 2018.[78]

In 2019, national aviation authorities around the world grounded the 737 MAX series following two total loss crashes which caused 346 deaths.[79] On December 16, 2019, Boeing announced that it will suspend production of the 737 MAX from January 2020.[80]

737 replacement

Boeing had discussed replacing the 737 with a "clean sheet" design since 2006. The project's working name was the Boeing Y1 and development was planned to follow the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.[81] However, a decision on this replacement was postponed to after 2011.[82] In November 2014, Boeing announced a plan to develop a clean sheet aircraft to replace the 737 by 2030. The airplane was to have a similar fuselage but made from composite materials developed for the Dreamliner.[83] Boeing also considered a parallel development along with the 757 replacement, similar to the development of the 757 and 767 in the 1970s.[84]

In the late 2010s, Boeing worked on a medium-range New Midsize Airplane with two variants seating 225 or 275 passengers and targeting the same market segment as the 737 MAX 10 and the Airbus A321 neo.[85] A Future Small Airplane (FSA) was also touted during this period.[86] The NMA project was set aside in January 2020, as Boeing focused on returning the 737 MAX to service and announced that it would be taking a new approach to future projects.[87]

Design evolution

The 737 continued to evolve into many variants but still remains recognisable as the 737. These are divided into four generations but all are based on the same basic design.

Fuselage, landing gear and planform

The fuselage cross section and nose is derived from that of the Boeing 707 and Boeing 727. Early 737 cockpits also inherited the "eyebrow windows" positioned above the main glareshield, which were a feature of the original 707 and 727[88] to allow for better crew visibility.[89] Contrary to popular belief, these windows were not intended for celestial navigation[90] (only the military T-43A had a sextant port for star navigation, which the civilian models lacked[91]). With modern avionics, the windows became redundant, and many pilots actually placed newspapers or other objects in them to block out sun glare. They were eliminated from the 737 cockpit design in 2004, although they are still installed on customer request.[92] The eyebrow windows were sometimes removed and plugged, usually during maintenance overhauls, and can be distinguished by the metal plug which differs from the smooth metal in later aircraft that were not originally fitted with the windows.[92]

The 737's main landing gear, under the wings at mid-cabin, rotates into wheel wells in the aircraft's belly. The legs are covered by partial doors, and "brush-like" seals aerodynamically smooth (or "fair") the wheels in the wells. The sides of the tires are exposed to the air in flight. "Hub caps" complete the aerodynamic profile of the wheels. It is forbidden to operate without the caps, because they are linked to the ground speed sensor that interfaces with the anti-skid brake system. The dark circles of the tires are clearly visible when a 737 takes off, or is at low altitude.[93]

From July 2008 the steel landing gear brakes on new NGs were replaced by Messier-Bugatti carbon brakes, achieving weight savings up to 550700 lb (250320 kg) depending on whether standard or high-capacity brakes.[94] On a 737-800 this gives a 0.5% improvement in fuel efficiency.[95]

737s are not equipped with fuel dump systems. The original design was too small to require this, and adding a fuel dump system to the later, larger variants would have incurred a large weight penalty. Boeing instead demonstrated an "equivalent level of safety". Depending upon the nature of the emergency, 737s either circle to burn off fuel or land overweight. If the latter is the case, the aircraft is inspected by maintenance personnel for damage and then returned to service if none is found.[96][97]

The planform evolution has been dictated largely by the need to accommodate ever larger engine diameters, pushing the engines progressively forward of the wing because of the lack of ground clearance.


Engines on the 737 Classic series (300, 400, 500) and Next-Generation series (600, 700, 800, 900) do not have circular inlets like most aircraft. The 737 Classic series featured CFM56 turbofan engines, which yielded significant gains in fuel economy and a reduction in noise over the JT8D engines used on the 100 and 200, but also posed an engineering challenge given the low ground clearance of the 737. Boeing and engine supplier CFMI solved the problem by placing the engine ahead of (rather than below) the wing, and by moving engine accessories to the sides (rather than the bottom) of the engine pod, giving the 737 a distinctive non-circular air intake.[49]

The wing also incorporated changes for improved aerodynamics. The engines' accessory gearbox was moved from the 6 o'clock position under the engine to the 4 o'clock position (from a front/forward looking aft perspective). This side-mounted gearbox gives the engine a somewhat triangular rounded shape. Because the engine is close to the ground, 737-300s and later models are more prone to engine foreign object damage (FOD). The improved CFM56-7 turbofan engine on the 737 Next Generation is 7% more fuel-efficient than the previous CFM56-3 in the 737 classics. The newest 737 variants, the 737 MAX family, feature CFM International LEAP-1B engines with a 68 inches (1.73 m) fan diameter. These engines were expected to be 10-12% more efficient than the CFM56-7B engines on the 737 Next Generation family.[98]

Flight systems

The 737 is unusual in that it still uses a hydro-mechanical flight control system, similar to the Boeing 707 and typical of the period, that transmits pilot commands to control surfaces by steel cables run through the fuselage and wings rather than by an electrical fly-by-wire system as used in all of the Airbus fleet and all later Boeing models.[99] This has been raised as a safety issue because of the impracticality of duplicating such a mechanical cable-based system in the way that an electrical or electronic system can be. This leaves the flight controls as a single point of failure in the event of, say, metal fragments from an uncontained engine failure penetrating the wings or fuselage. [100]

The primary flight controls have mechanical backups. In the event of total hydraulic system failure or double engine failure, they will automatically and seamlessly revert to control via servo tab. In this mode, the servo tabs aerodynamically control the elevators and ailerons; these servo tabs are in turn controlled by cables running to the control yoke. The pilot's muscle forces alone control the tabs.

The 737 Next Generation series introduced a six-screen LCD glass cockpit with modern avionics but designed to retain crew commonality with previous 737 generations.[101]

Aerodynamic improvements

The Original -100 and -200 series were built without wingtip devices but these were later introduced to improve fuel efficiency. The 737 has evolved four winglet types: the 737-200 Mini-winglet, 737 Classic/NG Blended Winglet, 737 Split Scimitar Winglet, and 737 MAX Advanced Technology Winglet.[92] The 737-200 Mini-winglets are part of the Quiet Wing Corp modification kit that received certification in 2005.[92]

Blended winglets were standard on the 737 NG and are available for retrofit on 737 Classic models. These winglets stand approximately 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and are installed at the wing tips. They improve fuel efficiency by up to 5% through lift-induced drag reduction achieved by moderating wingtip vortices.[102][103]

Split Scimitar winglets became available in 2014 for the 737-800, 737-900ER, BBJ2 and BBJ3, and in 2015 for the 737-700, 737-900 and BBJ1.[104] Split Scimitar winglets were developed by Aviation Partners Inc. (API), the same Seattle based corporation that developed the blended winglets; the Split Scimitar winglets produce up to a 5.5% fuel savings per aircraft compared to 3.3% savings for the blended winglets. Southwest Airlines flew their first flight of a 737-800 with Split Scimitar winglets on April 14, 2014.[105] The next generation 737, 737 MAX, will feature an Advanced Technology (AT) Winglet that is produced by Boeing. The Boeing AT Winglet resembles a cross between the Blended Winglet and the Split Scimitar Winglet.[106]

An optional Enhanced Short Runway Package was developed for use on short runways.

Cabin design

The first generation Original series 737 cabin was replaced for the second generation Classic series with a design based on the Boeing 757 cabin. The Classic cabin was then redesigned once more for the third, Next Generation, 737 with a design based on the Boeing 777 cabin. Boeing later offered the redesigned Sky Interior on the NG. The principle features of the Sky Interior include: sculpted sidewalls, redesigned window housings, increased headroom and LED mood lighting, [107][108] larger pivot-bins based on the 777 and 787 designs and generally more luggage space,[108] and claims to have improved cabin noise levels by 24 dB.[107] The first 737 equipped Boeing Sky Interior was delivered to Flydubai in late 2010.[107] Continental Airlines,[109][110]Alaska Airlines,[111] Malaysia Airlines,[112] and TUIFly have also received Sky Interior-equipped 737s.[113]

Other variants

Enhanced Short Runway Package

This short-field design package is an option on the 737-600, -700 and -800 and is standard equipment for the new 737-900ER. These enhanced short runway versions could increase pay or fuel loads when operating on runways under 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Landing payloads were increased by up to 8,000 lbs on the 737-800 and 737-900ER and up to 4,000 lbs on the 737-600 and 737-700. Takeoff payloads were increased by up to 2,000 lbs on the 737-800 and 737-900ER and up to 400 lbs on the 737-600 and 737-700. The package includes:[114]

The first enhanced version was delivered to Gol Transportes Aéreos (GOL) on July 31, 2006. At that time, twelve customers had ordered the package for more than 250 airframes. Customers include: GOL, Alaska Airlines, Air Europa, Air India, Egyptair, GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS), Hapagfly, Japan Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Ryanair, Sky Airlines and Turkish Airlines. [115]

737 AEW&C

The Boeing 737 AEW&C is a 737-700IGW roughly similar to the 737-700ER. This is an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) version of the 737NG. Australia is the first customer (as Project Wedgetail), followed by Turkey and South Korea.


The T-43 was a 737-200 modified for use by the United States Air Force for training navigators, now known as USAF combat systems officers. Informally referred to as the Gator (an abbreviation of "navigator") and "Flying Classroom", nineteen of these aircraft were delivered to the Air Training Command at Mather AFB, California during 1973 and 1974. Two additional aircraft were delivered to the Colorado Air National Guard at Buckley ANGB (later Buckley AFB) and Peterson AFB, Colorado, in direct support of cadet air navigation training at the nearby U.S. Air Force Academy.

Two T-43s were later converted to CT-43As, similar to the CT-40A Clipper below, in the early 1990s and transferred to Air Mobility Command and United States Air Forces in Europe, respectively, as executive transports. A third aircraft was also transferred to Air Force Material Command for use as a radar test bed aircraft and was redesignated as an NT-43A. The T-43 was retired by the Air Education and Training Command in 2010 after 37 years of service.[116]

C-40 Clipper

The Boeing C-40 Clipper is a military version of the 737-700C NG. It is used by both the United States Navy and the United States Air Force, and has been ordered by the United States Marine Corps.[117] Technically, only the Navy C-40A variant is named "Clipper", whereas the USAF C-40B/C variants are officially unnamed.

P-8 Poseidon

The P-8 Poseidon (formerly Multimission Maritime Aircraft) developed for the United States Navy by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, based on the Next Generation 737-800ERX.

The P-8 can be operated in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and shipping interdiction roles. It is armed with torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and other weapons, and is able to drop and monitor sonobuoys, as well as operate in conjunction with other assets such as the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Boeing Business Jet (BBJ)

In the late 1980s, Boeing marketed the 77-33 jet, a business jet version of the 737-300.[118] The name was short-lived. After the introduction of the Next Generation series, Boeing introduced the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) series. The BBJ1 was similar in dimensions to the 737-700 but had additional features, including stronger wings and landing gear from the 737-800, and had increased range over the other 737 models through the use of extra fuel tanks. The first BBJ rolled out on August 11, 1998 and flew for the first time on September 4.[119]

On October 11, 1999 Boeing launched the BBJ2. Based on the 737-800, it is 19 feet 2 inches (5.84 m) longer than the BBJ, with 25% more cabin space and twice the baggage space, but has slightly reduced range. It is also fitted with auxiliary belly fuel tanks and winglets. The first BBJ2 was delivered on February 28, 2001.[119]

Boeing's BBJ3 is based on the 737-900ER. The BBJ3 has 1,120 square feet (104 m2) of floor space, 35% more interior space, and 89% more luggage space than the BBJ2. It has an auxiliary fuel system, giving it a range of up to 4,725 nautical miles (8,751 km), and a Head-up display. Boeing completed the first example in August 2008. This aircraft's cabin is pressurized to a simulated 6,500-foot (2,000 m) altitude.[120][121]

Boeing Converted Freighter program

The Boeing Converted Freighter program (BCF), or the 737-800BCF program, was launched by Boeing in 2016. It converts old 737-800 passenger jets to dedicated freighters.[122] The first 737-800BCF was delivered in 2018 to GECAS, which is leased to West Atlantic.[123] Boeing has signed an agreement with Chinese YTO Airlines to provide the airline with 737-800BCFs pending a planned program launch.[124]


The Boeing 737 Classic, Next Generation and MAX series have faced significant competition from the Airbus A320 family first introduced in 1988. The relatively recent Airbus A220 family now also competes against the smaller capacity end of the 737 variants. The A320 was developed to compete also with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80/90 and 95 series; the 95 later becoming the Boeing 717.

From July 2017, Airbus had a 59.4% market share of the re-engined single aisle market, while Boeing had 40.6%; Boeing had doubts on over-ordered A320neos by new operators and expected to narrow the gap with replacements not already ordered.[125] However, in July 2017, Airbus had still 1,350 more A320neo orders than Boeing had for the 737 MAX.[126]

Boeing delivered 8,918 of the 737 family between March 1988 and December 2018,[127][128] while Airbus delivered 8,605 A320 family aircraft over a similar period since first delivery in early 1988.[129]



The 737 is operated by more than 500 airlines, flying to 1,200 destinations in 190 countries: over 4,500 are in service and at any given time there are on average 1,250 airborne worldwide. On average, somewhere in the world, a 737 took off or landed every five seconds in 2006. Since entering service in 1968, the 737 has carried over 12 billion passengers over 74 billion miles (120 billion km; 65 billion nm), and has accumulated more than 296 million hours in the air. The 737 represents more than 25% of the worldwide fleet of large commercial jet airliners.[132][133]


Many countries operate the 737 passenger, BBJ, and cargo variants in government or military applications.[134] Users with 737s include:

Orders and deliveries

As of 2006, there were an average of 1,250 Boeing 737s airborne at any given time, with two either departing or landing somewhere every five seconds.[132]

Boeing delivered the 5,000th 737 to Southwest Airlines on February 13, 2006, the 6,000th 737 to Norwegian Air Shuttle in April 2009,[135] the 8,000th 737 to United Airlines on April 16, 2014.[136] The 10,000th 737 was ordered in July 2012,[137] and rolled out on March 13, 2018, as over 4,600 orders were pending.[138]

The 737 was the most widely ordered airliner until October 2019,[139] and is the most commonly flown aircraft.[140][141][142]

Total production

In total, 10,571 Boeing 737 aircraft, of all series, have been delivered as of December 31, 2019.[1]

Total Orders Total Deliveries Unfilled 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
15,156 10,571 4,585 127 580 529 490 495 485 440 415 372 376 372 290 330
Year 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987
Deliveries 302 212 202 173 223 299 282 320 282 135 76 89 121 152 218 215 174 146 165 161
Year 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977 1976 1975 1974 1973 1972 1971 1970 1969 1968 1967
Deliveries 141 115 67 82 95 108 92 77 40 25 41 51 55 23 22 29 37 114 105 4

Units by generation

As of December 2019, 15,156 units of the Boeing 737 have been ordered, with 4,585 units to be delivered, [1] or 4,398 when including "additional criteria for recognizing contracted backlog with customers beyond the existence of a firm contract".[4] Units built by model type for 737 Original, Classic, Next Generation, and Boeing Business Jet families are as follows:

Orders and deliveries data from Boeing through December 31, 2019[1]
Generation Model series ICAO code[143] Orders Deliveries Unfilled orders First flight
737 Original 737-100 B731 30 30 April 9, 1967
737-200 B732 991 991 August 8, 1967
737-200C 104 104 September 18, 1968
737-T43A 19 19 March 10, 1973
737 Classic 737-300 B733 1,113 1,113 February 24, 1984
737-400 B734 486 486 February 19, 1988
737-500 B735 389 389 June 30, 1989
737 Next Generation 737-600 B736 69 69 January 22, 1998
737-700 B737 1,128 1,128 February 9, 1997
737-700C 22 22 April 14, 2000[144]
737-700W 17 14 3 May 20, 2004[145]
737-800 B738 4,991 4,987 4 July 31, 1997
737-800A 157 126 31 April 25, 2009[146]
737-900 B739 52 52 August 3, 2000
737-900ER 505 505 September 1, 2006
737 Boeing Business Jet 737-BBJ1 (-700) B737 121 121 September 4, 1998
737-BBJ2 (-800) B738 23 21 2 N/A
737-BBJ3 (-900) B739 7 7 N/A
737 MAX 737 MAX (-7,-8,-9,-10) B37M / B38M / B39M / B3XM 4,932 387 4,545 January 29, 2016[147]

In 2019, 737 orders dropped by 90%, as 737 MAX orders dried up after the March grounding.[148][better source needed] The 737 MAX backlog fell by 182, mainly due to the Jet Airways bankruptcy, a drop in Boeing's airliner backlog was a first in at least the past 30 years.[149]

Accidents and incidents

As of January 2020, there has been a total of 480 aviation accidents and incidents involving all 737 aircraft,[150] including 213 hull losses resulting in a total of 5,562 fatalities.[151][152]

A Boeing analysis of commercial jet airplane accidents between 1959 and 2013 found that the hull loss rate for the Original series was 1.75 per million departures, for the Classic series 0.54, and the Next Generation series 0.27.[153]

During the 1990s, a series of rudder issues on series -200 and -300 aircraft resulted in multiple incidents. In two total loss accidents, United Airlines Flight 585 (a -200 series) and USAir Flight 427, (a -300), the pilots lost control of the aircraft following a sudden and unexpected deflection of the rudder, killing everyone aboard, a total of 157 people.[154] Similar rudder issues led to a temporary loss of control on at least five other 737 flights before the problem was ultimately identified. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the accidents and incidents were the result of a design flaw that could result in an uncommanded movement of the aircraft's rudder.[155]:13[156]:ix As a result of the NTSB's findings, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered that the rudder servo valves be replaced on all 737s and mandated new training protocols for pilots to handle an unexpected movement of control surfaces.[157]

Following the crashes of two 737 MAX 8 aircraft, Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019, which caused 346 deaths, national aviation authorities around the world grounded the 737 MAX series.[79] On December 16, 2019, Boeing announced that it would suspend production of the 737 MAX from January 2020.[80]

Aircraft on display

Owing to the 737's long production history and popularity, many older 737s have found use in museums after reaching the end of useful service.


Boeing 737 Characteristics[178]
Variant 737-100 737-200 737-300/-400/-500 737-600/-700/-800/-900 737 MAX-7/8/9/10[179][180]
Cockpit crew Two
2-class seats 85 : 12F 73Y 102 : 14F@38" 88Y@34" 126/147/110 108/128/160/177 138/162/178/188
1-class seats 103@34" - 118@30" 115@34" - 130@30" 140+/159-168/122-132 123-130/140+/175+/177-215 153/178/193/204
Exit limit 124 136 149/188/145 149/149/189/220 172/210/220/230
Length 94 ft (29 m) 100 ft 2 in (30.53 m) 102120 ft (3137 m) 102138 ft (3142 m) 116.7143.7 ft (35.5643.8 m)
Span 93 ft (28 m) 94 ft 9 in (28.88 m) 112 ft 7 in (34.32 m)
winglets: 117 ft 5 in (35.79 m)
117 ft 10 in (35.92 m)
Wing[181] 979.9 sq ft (91.04 m2), 25° sweep 1,341.2 sq ft (124.60 m2) 1,370 sq ft (127 m2)[182]
Height 37 ft (11 m) 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m) 41 ft (12 m) 40 ft 4 in (12.29 m)
Width Fuselage: 148 inches (3.8 m), Cabin: 139.2 inches (3.54 m)
Cargo 650 cu ft (18 m3) 875 cu ft (24.8 m3) 8821,373 cu ft
25.038.9 m3
7201,826 cu ft
20.451.7 m3
1,5431,814 cu ft
43.751.4 m3
MTOW 110,000 lb (50,000 kg) 128,100 lb (58,100 kg) 133,500150,000 lb
60,60068,000 kg
144,500187,700 lb
65,50085,100 kg
177,000194,700 lb
80,30088,300 kg
OEW 62,000 lb (28,000 kg) 65,300 lb (29,600 kg) 70,44076,760 lb
31,95034,820 kg
80,20098,495 lb
36,37844,677 kg
MAX 8: 99,360 lb
45,070 kg[183]
Fuel capacity 4,720US gal / 17,865L 5,970US gal / 22,596L[a] 5,311USgal
6,875-7,837 US gal
26,022-29,666 L
6,853 US gal
25,941 L
Speed Mach 0.745Mach 0.82 (430473 kn; 796876 km/h) CruiseMMO[182] Mach 0.785 (453 kn; 838 km/h) Cruise
Takeoff[b] 6,099 ft (1,859 m)[181] 7,5008,690 ft
2,2902,650 m[184]
6,1617,598 ft
1,8782,316 m[181]
Range 1,540 nmi (2,850 km)[185] 2,600 nmi (4,800 km)[c][186] 2,0602,375 nmi
3,8154,398 km[184]
2,9353,010 nmi
5,4365,575 km[187]
3,3003,850 nmi
6,1107,130 km
Ceiling[182] 37,000 ft (11,300 m) 41,000 ft (12,500 m)
Engines (×2) Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7/-9/-5/-17 CFM56-3 series CFM56-7 series CFM LEAP-1B
Thrust (×2) 14,000 lbf (62 kN)[185] 14,50016,400 lbf
6473 kN[186]
20,00023,500 lbf
89105 kN
20,00027,000 lbf
89120 kN
up to 29,300 lbf (130 kN)
  1. ^ With 810 gal/3,065 L auxiliary fuel tank
  2. ^ MTOW, Sea Level, International Standard Atmosphere
  3. ^ 120 passengers

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


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External links

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