Boeing today delivered the 7,370th 737 from its Renton plant to Lion Air of Indonesia.
The 737 is by far the best-selling commercial jet in history with more than 10,100 on order. The twin-engine 737 once was a slow seller on the market, almost an afterthought in Boeing’s lineup of jets.
But the development of more powerful and more fuel-efficient engines have made the single-aisle the workhorse of many airlines. Those extended capabilities allow the 737, which was conceived as a short-to-medium-range jetliner in the ’60s, to fly coast-to-coast non-stop and from the West Coast to Hawaii.
Executive jet versions of the 737 equipped with extra fuel tanks can fly more than 6,000 miles without refueling.
The plane now being produced is the third generation of the aircraft. A fourth generation, the 737 Max, is due to begin airline service in 2017.
The 737 has far outdistanced its rivals and other Boeing jets in sales. The popular three-engine Boeing 727, for instance, once the most popular jet airliner, sold 1,832 examples. The family of the twin-engine Douglas DC-9, with which the 737 competed, sold 2,500 in several versions, the DC-9, the MD-80 and MD90 and the Boeing 717 after Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas.
Boeing’s sold 1,011 of its 707 and 1,050 of its 757, two other single-aisle jets. Most rival planes fared far worse. The British Hawker-Sidley Trident’s production run was just 117 planes. The French SUD Caravelle ended production after 282.
Only the Airbus A320 family of planes has approached the 737 in popularity with 8,628 orders and 5,264 planes delivered as of September.
Airbus maintains, however, that despite Boeing bragging, that the A320 family of aircraft is the most popular.
“The A320 single-aisle jetliner family (composed of the A318, A319, A320 and A321) is the undisputed best-selling aircraft product line of all time,” the European manufacturer says on its website.
Airbus must be summing its numbers differently than Boeing. In Airbus’s defense, the 737 has a 20-year headstart on the A320. The first 737 entered airline service in 1968. The first A320 flew passengers in 1988.