Friday, March 28, 2008

Not Classic Jetliners (3) : Boeing 737-100

Wait, isn't this series about jetliners that were a commercial flop? Haven't there been 1000s of 737s built? Indeed the Boeing 737 is the most successful jet airliner to date with well over 5000 built to date but of that only 30 were of the original -100 variant. Design of the 737 began in 1964 with market research showing the need for an airliner that could carry up to 60 people later increased to 100 in consultation with the launch customer Lufthansa. However United Airlines wanted a stretched version which became the 737-200.

Boeing 737-100 prototype - Boeing image

The first 737-100 first took off on April 1967 with delivery to Lufthansa at the end of that year. However Lufthansa remained the only major customer of the type. Everyone else was buying the stretched -200 variant like crazy. Only 30 737-100s were built but over 1000 -200s. Most were to Lufthansa though the prototype was later sold to NASA.

Boeing 737 prototype in NASA service - NASA image

None of the 30 737-100s remain in service, the NASA plane being retired after 30 years of service and is now preserved in Seattle. So why did the 737-100 fail? The difference between the 2 types was not that great, the -200 was just less than 2 metres longer, but the passenger load was higher enough to appeal much more to customers. It was probably the snowball effect in sales and there being no point in Boeing promoting 2 variants that killed off the -100.

New built 737-100s were also ordered by Malaysian Airlines and Avianca though Lufthansa had 22 of the 30. The final -100 in civil service was with Aero Continente in Peru and was retired in 2005. The -100 was involved in 1 accident though there were luckily no fatalities.

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