Here’s a news item that shows just how much Boeing’s ubiquitous 737, the world’s best-selling jetliner, has evolved since it first entered commercial service 44 years ago.
A VIP version of Boeing’s 737-700 just set a new speed record for a Los Angeles-to- Auckland, New Zealand flight accomplished this weekend.
The jet flew the 6,506 miles between the two cities non-stop in 13 hours, 7 minutes and 54 seconds. That’s an average speed of some 495 miles an hour.
Perhaps more significant than the speed was the distance. When Boeing first designed the twin-engine plane in the ’60s, it was intended to be a short-range competitor to Douglas’ DC-9 and British Aircraft Corporation’s 1-11.
The first version of the 737, the 737-100, had a range of 1,771 miles. The 737 that flew the 6,506-mile record flight to New Zealand had 7,800 pounds of fuel left in its tanks when it landed.
The Boeing Business Jet is a version of the Next-Generation 737-700. That plane is the third generation of the 737. A fourth generation, the 737 Max, will have even more fuel-stingy engines and improved aerodynamics that will give it even greater range.
The VIP aircraft that made the flight wasn’t your typical airline 737. It had a minimal interior. The plane was bound for New Zealand to be fitted with a custom VIP interior.
It was equipped with seven auxiliary fuel tanks to give ocean-crossing capabilities.
The more typical current 737 has a range about twice that of the original 737-100. That additional range capability is one of the keys to the plane’s sales success. Next Generation 737s are routinely flown on coast-to-coast passenger flights. Alaska Airlines, for instance, flies 737s from Sea-Tac to Ft. Lauderdale non-stop.
The range increase has also made the 737 capable to flying to Hawaii from the mainland with fuel to spare.