DALLAS — Ryanair (FR), an airline known for operating a fleet consisting entirely of Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 189 seats in Economy Class, rarely deviates from this practice.
However, the Irish low-cost carrier (LCC) has introduced a single Boeing 737-700, a shorter variant, into its fleet via its subsidiary Buzz (RR) in March 2023. The plane, registered SP-RUM, is regarded as one of the most remarkable aircraft currently seen in Europe.
The selection of the type demonstrates that even highly structured and systematic airlines can be flexible when market demands require it. Airways provides a brief account of the aircraft, identified as MSN 29078, which in 2009 broke the fleet commonality of one of the largest LCCs in the world.
Early Operation of this Jet
The Boeing 737-700 aircraft with the identification MSN 29078 was manufactured and assembled at the Boeing-Renton (RNT) factory in the late 1990s. Its maiden flight took place on January 12, 1999.
MSN 29078 was not originally intended for FR. The aircraft’s journey spans over 15 years, with seven different operators on two continents.
Upon completion, the 737 was delivered to Azzurra Air (ZS), a small Italian airline, on April 14, 1999. ZS, a subsidiary of Air Malta (KM), primarily focused on charter flights from Milan-Bergamo Airport (BGY) and operated a single regular service to Rome (FCO). Unfortunately, the airline faced financial difficulties and went bankrupt in March 2004.
Due to the financial situation of ZS, the plane was no longer part of the fleet and was acquired by Rio Sul (SL), which had merged with the Brazilian airline Varig (RG). The aircraft joined its fleet of five other Boeing 737-700 jets, which were used for regional domestic flights in Brazil.
Danish Period in Maersk
Due to further financial difficulties faced by SL, MSN 29078 returned to Europe and commenced a new phase of operations with the Danish airline Maersk Air (DM). This period began in June 2004, which coincided with the “golden age” of European aviation before the significant financial crisis of 2008.
Under the new name, Sterling Airlines (NB), the Boeing 737-700 aircraft operated an extensive network of intra-European routes from major Scandinavian hubs such as Copenhagen (CPH), Oslo (OSL), Stockholm (ARN), and Gothenburg (GOT).
Sterling Airlines focused not only on flights to popular Mediterranean destinations in Spain and France but also offered hybrid services to central European destinations. Additionally, at some point during its operations, the airline even introduced a direct service to Dubai Airport (DXB).
Last Appearance in South America
The bankruptcy trend of European airlines in the early 2010s was partly caused by the significant financial crisis of 2008. Unfortunately, NB (Sterling Airlines) was among the airlines affected and ceased operations in October 2008.
Following the closure of NB, our well-known aircraft was transferred to the Americas for the final time, beginning a new chapter with the Colombian airline AIRES (4C).
AIRES, which later became part of the LAN Group, primarily focused on connecting Bogotá-El Dorado Airport (BOG) with other destinations in South America. AIRES’ flights served as important feeder services, complementing the long-haul routes that connected them to Europe.
Ryanair’s Only Boeing 737-700
On May 8, 2015, the industry saw a surprising move that would help the already successful and expanding FR. Instead of the usual Boeing 737-800 jet, the airline introduced its smaller sibling, the Boeing 737-700.
The aircraft, registered as EI-SEV, had a specific purpose as a dedicated training airplane. It played a crucial role in allowing new pilots and instructors at East Midlands-Nottingham Airport (EMA) in the United Kingdom to obtain and update their type ratings through specialized flights.
From February to June 2016, the airplane underwent a swift reconfiguration process, transforming it into a full business-class cabin with a total of 60 seats. During this period, it served as a VIP transport jet for the airline’s top-level executives.
In addition to its training and VIP roles, the aircraft was also occasionally utilized for shipping spare parts and transporting crew members between airports. This complemented the carrier’s existing fleet of Learjet 45 aircraft, which are still in operation today.
Featured image: Jonathan Payne via Wikimedia Commons