MIAMI — Boeing’s 8,000th 737 took to the skies for the first time on Tuesday. The aircraft, line 4868, is a Boeing 737-900ER. It will be delivered to United as N68821 within the next week.
The 8,000th 737 took to the skies on the 47th anniversary of the type’s first flight, which occurred on April 9, 1967.
Lufthansa and United were the first two airlines to place an order for the jet, split between the original 737-100 and -200. The Dash 100 only received a grand total of 30 orders, and the Dash 200 was built to be the successor. In December 1968, United took delivery of the 100th Boeing 737.
It took ten years for Boeing to sell 500 737s, with Gulf Air taking delivery of the 500th in 1977. Although it was slow in the beginning, the order book gradually began to gain momentum especially as airlines such as Air California, British Airways, Delta, Frontier, Lufthansa, Southwest, and United warmed to the type’s economics with its ability to fly profitably on short-haul segments because of its fuel-efficient twin-engine and 2-man crew configuration.
Five years later, Delta accepted the 1000th Boeing 737, one of its first, in December 1983.
Yet the 737’s career was only just beginning. In 1984, the second generation 737 series (-300, -400, and -500) entered service with Southwest Airlines. The aircraft boasted many aerodynamic improvements, and it was also a bit longer.
As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, Boeing had to remain competitive as the Airbus A320 family began to directly compete with the Boeing 737 family. The company eventually answered with the Boeing 737 Next Generation, which first flight in 1997. It boasted a redesigned wing, and eventually winglets, which increased total fuel capacity by 30% and range to over 3,000 miles.
Its CFM56-7Bs engines were quieter, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient, and the flight deck was further upgraded with new avionics. There was also an upgraded passenger cabin with bigger overhead bins and more curved surfaces. Airlines ordered 724 of the Next-Generation 737 models between the Next-Generation program launch Nov. 17, 1993, and the day the first airplane was delivered on Dec. 12, 1997.
In 2004, The 1,500th Next-Generation 737 was delivered to ATA Airlines. The Next-Generation 737 family reached the milestone in less time than any other commercial airplane family, six years after the delivery of the first model. Two years later, the 5,000th 737, a 737-700 painted in Southwest Airlines colors, was delivered on February 13, 2006; the 447th 737 to join the carrier’s fleet.
On August 30, 2011 launched the Boeing 737 MAX. The MAX will feature a larger diameter, more powerful and the fuel-efficient CFM International Leap-1B engine. A new type of wingtip device resembling a three-way “V-shaped” combination of a blended winglet, wingtip fence, and raked wingtip would provide a distinctive visual cue different then any aircraft before.
The 737 became the first-ever commercial jet airplane to surpass the 10,000 orders milestone in July 2012, when United Airlines ordered 50 Next-Generation 737-900ERs and 100 737 MAX 9s. More recently, the 7500th Boeing 737 was delivered on March 20, 2013 to Asian LCC Lion Air.