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The Boeing 737 Turns 50

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Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing 737. On 9 April 1967, the prototype 737 took to the skies for the first time, beginning a 50 year journey that has shaped and reshaped how we fly. Since that day in 1967, nearly 14,000 737s have been ordered and almost 10,000 delivered to customers.

A Day of Flying

Digging into the numbers, we decided to take a look at a day in the life of the 737 to see how many are flying, with which airlines, and to where they fly.

Choosing the 737 That’s Right for You

Since 1967, Boeing has designed and built over 10 commercial variants of the 737, including the newest MAX series, which is set to launch commercial operations later this year. On the aircraft’s 50th birthday we tracked 26,489 flights by 9 variants and 5,958 individual aircraft. By far, the most active variant was the 737-800 with 18,242 flights.

737 flights by variant on 9 April 2017
Note: B738 includes a flight by 737 MAX 8 N8703J. MAX do not receive a new ICAO type code.

The Biggest Operators

56 separate airlines operated 100 or more 737 flights yesterday, but the top 10 (and even top 2) are in a class of their own when it comes to their 737 operations. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the top 2 operators of 737 flights on the aircraft’s 50th birthday each have only 737s in their fleets. Southwest Airlines operates a fleet of over 750 737s comprised of 737-300, 737-700, and 737-800 aircraft. In a few months time, Southwest will be the launch customer of the 737 MAX. Ryanair now operates a commercial fleet of nearly 400 737-800 aircraft, and it too will take delivery of the MAX.

The number of flights each by the top 10 airline operators of the 737 on 9 April 2017

Where does the 737 Fly?

We tracked the 737 to or from 1,391 individual airports yesterday. Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK/WIII) in Jakarta saw the most 737 movements with 741 takeoffs and landings. Besides Jakarta, airports in the United States and China comprise the top 10 destinations for the 737. 141 airports operated 100 or more 737 flights on 9 April.

Number of 737 movements (take off or landing) at the top 10 airports worldwide, 9 April 2017

With production of the 737 Next Generation continuing and the first 737 MAX almost ready for delivery, it is likely that we’ll be able to revisit a day of 737s flights in 50 years time.


Featured image by C. v. Grinsven

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