Skip to comments.737 as popular as ever (Spirit workers to celebrate 5,000th fuselage)
Posted on 12/12/2005 9:57:19 PM PST by Paleo Conservative
In 1965, when Boeing launched its new short-range 4737 twinjet, some Wichita workers didn't think there would be a large market for the plane.
They figured the much bigger 747 would be the hotter seller. After all, airlines were using hubs more than they were offering point-to-point service -- direct routes between cities that bypassed hubs.
At the time, Wichita workers built the tooling for the 737 fuselage as if they would manufacture only about 100 planes in all.
Time has proven them wrong.
The 737 is the most popular jetliner in commercial aircraft history. It has provided jobs for thousands of Wichita workers for dozens of years.
This week, workers will load the 5,000th 737 fuselage onto a railcar in south Wichita and send it to Boeing's facility in Renton, Wash. In February, the plane will be delivered to Southwest Airlines, which operates the largest 737 fleet in the world.
Employees at Spirit AeroSystems, formerly Boeing's commercial aircraft facility, will celebrate the milestone on Tuesday.
"That has been the mainstay of our commercial line for a number of years," said Spirit AeroSystems chief executive Jeff Turner.
And it appears it will stay that way. At least in the short term.
Boeing has 737s on order for delivery in the latter part of this decade, said Boeing spokesman Craig Martin.
Just last month, airlines in China ordered 150 737s in a deal valued at as much as $9 billion on list prices.
Boeing said its newest 737s -- the 600, 700, 800 and 900 models -- are economical and the most technologically-advanced airplanes in their class. Boeing also offers a 737 cargo plane, a combination cargo-passenger model and a business jet.
With an upturn in the market, Boeing is raising 737 production rates. At the end of October, Boeing had orders for 1,046 737s.
"The orders have just been phenomenal," said JSA Research aerospace analyst Paul Nisbet. "We won't see any let up in production, I don't think, until the next decade, and then it's far from certain."
But will Wichita build another 5,000 737 fuselages?
"No," Nisbet said. "I think sometime in the next decade, (Boeing will) replace it with an aircraft that will have the same or better technology than the 787," Boeing's newest jet.
"We're surmising that in 2011 or 12 or 13 -- in that time frame -- talk will be about launching or perhaps actually launching a new replacement aircraft," Nisbet said.
Martin agreed that Boeing will likely replace the 737 -- there are still 4,188 flying today -- with an all-new airplane. But how soon is hard to say.
"The market is going to tell us that," Martin said.
Southwest Airlines has been informally talking with Boeing about the potential of using the enhancements in technology and fuel efficiencies found in its advanced design aircraft -- the 777 and the 787 Dreamliner -- to improve the smaller 737, said Southwest executive vice president for operations Mike Van de Ven.
They aren't talking about a total replacement, he said.
When there are new aircraft designs, "you get smarter and smarter and you learn more things," Van de Ven said. The airline is interested in how much transferability there could be to the 737.
"We have a great partnership with Boeing," he said. "They are very interested in our perspective."
Boeing delivered the first 737-100 in 1967 to Lufthansa Airlines. In the ensuing years, the 737 has kept thousands employed in Wichita, although employment has risen and fallen with cycles in the business.
Production of the 737 fuselage makes up about 45 percent of the Wichita operation's business, said Spirit vice president and general manager of fuselage structures Richard "Buck" Buchanan. Including the struts and nacelles -- work the plant added later -- 60 percent of the business is 737 work, he said.
Expertise on the fuselage is a skill Spirit is actively marketing to other potential aviation customers as it seeks to grow the business.
Spirit's Turner said he thinks Boeing will want Spirit to do work on whatever plane will be the next single-aisle aircraft.
The goal would be to win the same amount of work on a new plane as it currently has on the 737, he said.
"Of course, we have to earn that opportunity," Turner said.
In the meantime, "we are selling ourselves and our capabilities now to the whole industry," he said.
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The 737 is the B-52 of commercial aviation. They just keep on ticking.
That's why if JetBlue had bought the 737-800 in the first place they wouldn't passenger load limits on transcon flights between the US West Coast and New York-JFK.
If Boeing had modernized the 727 by replacing the 3-man cockpit with the 757 2-man cockpit and changing it to a twin engine configuration, it's quite possible the 727 would have continued being the most popular jet airliner. It was only after the the 727 was discontinued that the 737 orders really started increasing.
The Next Generation 737 is almost a new aircraft compared to older 737 models. It has two totally new wings and new avionics. It has the same dimensions as the classic 737's so it fits at gates designed for older 737's and can use the same ground equipment, but in many ways it is mostly a new plane.
As a frequent flyer, I generally feel safe in 737s, especially compared to the A319 and A320, which just don't seem solid to me, or MD-80s, which are outright flexible (just sit with your shoulder against the wall near an emergency exit and you'll see).
But the single scariest airplane I've been on was an ancient 737 flown by Aloha Air, just last year. This was an original-issue model with the engines tucked under the wings without pylons. It was of the same vintage as the one that went "convertible" off Hawaii many years ago due to age, salt-air corrosion and the stress of countless island-hopping decompressions. This one had riveted reinforcement plates running down the full length of the fuselage to avoid the same fate. Not confidence-inspiring. Maybe Air Sibera runs older, more run-down planes than that one. But it got us from island to island in one piece. Keeps on ticking, indeed.
Wasn't the first one off the line the prototype? I thought NASA had already sent it to the Smithsonian.
The first 707 is at the new Smithsonian, but it had so many modifications that it don't look much like a 707 anymore.
Actually, the A320's that are out now with the high bypass engines can do coast to coast without any problems. Our first batch of A320's (from Braniff II) had problems doing BWI-PHX on a hot summer day. But our newer 320's and 319's easily did BOS-SFO or LAX-JFK. We have a 319 that does Phoenix to San Jose Costa Rica without any problems, and we also go to Cancun from Phoenix without much problems (even less now that we have ETOPS).
Nice bird...just avoid that hard-over rudder...could ruin your day!
You will get a kick out of this, from the December issue of Air Transport World "Through the Years"
30 years ago: ALPA and United's pilots may have won all the battles but lost the war on the 737 three-man crew issue. UAL sold two more 737s in November and has another tabled for 1976. It also plans to sell 10 others.
The 737 is probably the world's most overpowered airliner, and the Southwest pilots seem to delight in this fact during takeoff. If the country ever needs another medium bomber or cruise missile platform, the 737 would be just the ticket.
The Dash-80 really wasn't a prototype. It was a technology demonstrator. The fuselage was derived from the Boeing 367 Stratocruiser. I'm not quite sure if the wings were adapted from the B-47. The fuselage width of the KC-135 wasn't settled till the first order for them came from the USAF. Boeing later was forced to make the commercial 707 fuselage four inches wider after Pan Am ordered 25 DC-8's be delivered after the first 20 707's.
It looks like its been made with bondo!
I used to have to walk beneath the wing of a parked 720B (which is still flying for Honeywell as an engine test bed) to get to the crew bus, it was a well worn PA bird. Rivet city, not pretty up close!
I'd like to see them do it out of SNA.
It still amazes me that Aloha does Hawaii flights out of there and that tiny runway.
We start 757 service to Honolulu and Maui on Friday, finally got our planes ETOPS certified. Probably be a while till I can find an empty flight though.
Is that the one with the 5th engine mounted behind the cockpit?
Yep, I saw it flying a few weeks back, great to see that in the air!
One website said it was a Northwest plane, but it had a PA tail number, who knows?
I thought that Boeing celebrated the 6,000 th airframe of the 737? not 5,000,, unless that was a typo.
I know the prototype of the 707 is there, the DASH-80, the very same plane in that picture that TEX JOHNSON did that barrel roll in.
Only white knuckles I ever had in a 737 were actually in a T-43 in the mid 80's, flying out of old Mather AFB with the 452 FTS. DRs and Cele were stressfull but I never worried about the airframe!
"If the country ever needs another medium bomber or cruise missile platform, the 737 would be just the ticket."
Boeing is now offering a maritime patrol variant of the 737. I just wonder if it can loiter like a P-3 Orion (descendant of another airliner, the Electra, although nowhere near as successful as the 737. Same goes for the Nimrod/Comet). Just add a weapons bay, a sonobouy dispenser, MAD boom, surface search radar, and load the passenger compartment with the signal processing equipment.
I used to ride Indian Airlines 737s into the Shrinigar (Kashmir) airport back in the early 80s. I think that runway was about as long as my driveway, and the air was reeeeeal thin up there. Those IA pilots used to firewall those engines on takeoff and landings, every single time.
You think the 737 is a hot bird, but I dare say you have never felt what it is really capable of. When they set that thing down and hit the thrust reversers, you were thrown against the belt so hard, half the people would have bumped their heads on the seat in front of them, if the seat had not already collapsed forward.
Pretty exciting stuff. Takeoffs were fun too...
However, the A320-200's in JetBlue configuration still has trouble flying westbound from JFK to the US West Coast on a full load--I believe that JetBlue cannot fly the plane in full 162-passenger configuration on flights like JFK to Oakland, CA or JFK to Long Beach, CA. The 737-800 with the Aviation Partners winglets could easily fly fully-loaded from JFK to Oakland, CA year-round.
That was the order not the fuselage. The 737 has a backlog of over 1,000 orders. That's one reason why Boeing is setting up a second 737 line in the space where the 757 line was. At one time there was speculation that Boeing was going to set up moving production lines that could produce both 737's and 757's simultaneously. Apparently it wasn't feasible.
I wonder if the same plane will be offered as a BBJ-2ER with the room of 727-200 but the range of the BBj-1 or better.
I don't know. What would you use as two engines on the 727 to replace the three old JT8Ds? You can't tail-mount CFM-56s like the 737-300 and later use. And if you did what the "Super 27s" did and slap JT8D-217s back there (as on the MD-88), you've still got older, noisier, less fuel-efficient engines. RR Tays like UPS uses on their 727s? Or maybe IAE engines like on the MD-90? I'm actually surprised the 727 hung on in mainline service as long as it did (until Delta got rid of theirs in 2003).
I think the 727's the most gorgeous jetliner ever built, but I can see why the 737's eclipsed it. What Boeing's done with that design--swapping the old JT8Ds for the CFM-56s, stretching it, adding the winglets, almost completely recreating the avionics in the NG -600 through -900--is just remarkable. They've taken a short-hop 100-passenger plane and turned it into a transcontinental plane hauling nearly 170-180 people.
But nothing compares to the sound of three JT8Ds wide open and belching soot. Hush kits? We don' need no steenkin' hush kits! :)
You would pretty much have an MD-88, but with 3 across rather than 2 across seating.
Maximum seating -
MD-88 - 172, typical 142
727-200 (streatched version) - 189, typical 145.
So in a standard layout, there is a 3 seat differential.
I always follow the Today in the Sky blog and noticed that they mentioned this today too.
Its America West crews and iron, US doesn't have the rights to fly the flights, as they don't have ETOPS on their certificate. We also have the right to do one Europe flight with our certificate, possibly Dublin or Shannon.
Speaking of Southwest, I was on a flight arriving at Sacramento. There was a pretty stiff headwind (as is often the case during certain times of the year in Sac), and the touchdown was a bit hard. As we taxied to the gate, the hostess gave her usual "welcome to Sacramento, thank you for flying Southwest," and added "and we hope you enjoyed that demonstration of Naval aviation upon landing."
Why not. I'm talking about replacing the three engine configuration with two more powerful side mounted engines and getting rid of the S-ducted middle engine. I don't see why the CFM-56 engines wouldn't have worked in that configuration. In fact it wouldn't have required the extreme modifications to the engines and nacelles that were required to put them on the 737.
What Boeing's done with that design--swapping the old JT8Ds for the CFM-56s, stretching it, adding the winglets, almost completely recreating the avionics in the NG -600 through -900--is just remarkable.
They didn't just add winglets. The NG 737 has two whole new wings. There's the wing for the 737 600 and 700 and the wing for the 800 and 900. They are supercritical airfoils like the one on the 777.
But it would have standardized the 757/767 cockpit on smaller aircraft. One of Airbus' selling points in the comonality of cockpit layouts across their whole line of aircraft.
Instead, they put the cockpit in the 757 for their large, single aisle plane, before dumping the whole concept of large, single aisle planes except for the 737 in cattle car configuration where it will hold up to 189 - identical to the maximum on the 727.
The 737-900ER will be able to hold up to 215 passengers in cattle car configuration so it will be able to replace the 757-200 for domestic markets. The 757 has become popular for long thin trans-Atlantic operations so some airlines that own 757's might want to replace their domestic 757's with 737-900ER's in order to redeploy their 757's.
I don't understand your post. I flew JetBlue last month from JFK to San Diego and back and there wasn't an empty seat on either flight.