Lufthansa was the first airline in the world to choose the 737
55 years ago, commercial aviation would change forever. Air transport had already become a reality on long-distance routes, but it still had great potential for growth on short routes, hitherto basically served by piston planes or small turbo-propellers.
Boeing quite audaciously created a second derivative of the 707, giving rise to the 737-100, a jet with a capacity of up to 118 seats in a high-density configuration. The model caught the attention of German Lufthansa, which became a launch customer for the new aircraft, which would be used on short-haul routes and medium capacity, by the standards of the time.
Known as Baby Boeing, for being the smallest of the family, the 737 soon aroused market interest, but for an elongated version with a maximum capacity of 130 seats, giving rise to the 737-200. Some improvements were added to the 737-200, which at the end of production had an impressive 1,114 aircraft produced, compared to just 30 for the 737-100.
In the early 1980s, new engines appeared, more efficient, economical, and with greater power, in addition to digital avionics. Boeing not only re-engineered and modernized the cockpit but launched three new versions of the 737 that grew in size, range, and capability. Known as the 737 Classic, the series became a huge sales success, with the 737-300 achieving 1,113 sales, just one less than its predecessor, while the 737 Classic family reached 1,988 deliveries.
The launch of the Airbus A320 created a rival to the height of the 737. If the DC-9 and MD-80/90 family were not a real threat to the 737’s dominance, the European newcomer broke paradigms by bringing a digital cockpit, fly-by-wire, and a wider aircraft. Boeing’s response was a complete review of the project, which gave rise to a new family, which gained new engines, redesigned wings, and stabilizers, a digital cockpit, and aerodynamic improvements, among others.
737 Next Generation
The 737-700, the first aircraft in the 737 Next Generation series, took its maiden flight in February 1997, giving rise to a successful family of aircraft. The new technologies, added to the growth of the commercial aviation market around the world, boosted sales, and further popularized short and medium-haul air travel.
In addition, the 737 NG also made it possible to create routes from short stages to intercontinental operations. The 737-800 ended production with an impressive 4,991 aircraft, alone surpassing previous generations. The 737 Next Generation family amassed 6,972 aircraft produced. The model was still the basis for the Boeing Business Jet platform, of large-capacity business jets, used especially by governments and billionaires in the world.
Finally, in the middle of the last decade, Boeing was again forced to respond to the success of the A320. Airbus had launched a re-engineered and improved version of the model designated the A320neo, which quickly surpassed 1,000 orders.
Boeing’s solution was to re-engineer the 737 with CFM Leap 1 engines, which offered up to 20% fuel savings and reduced pollutant and noise emissions. Boeing also added some cockpit improvements, system upgrades and a revamped interior. The new series called the 737 MAX had more than 4,000 firm orders in just a few months, competing on equal terms with the rival Airbus.
A series of mistaken processes, engineering errors, and production line failures, among others, marred the successful career of the 737. The then “fifty” faced his biggest nightmare, two fatal accidents with the 737 MAX 8 led to a global ban. of flights with the 737 MAX family for nearly two years.
Over the course of twenty months, Boeing was accused of a series of errors, failures, and negligence, as well as being forced to revise the design of the 737 MAX. Finally, after being cleared to fly in December 2020, the rebellious new family regained the market’s trust and hopes to maintain the 737’s legacy for a few more decades.