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Boeing delivers 4,000th Next-Generation 737

April 17, 2012

It’s a big deal for an airplane family to reach 1,000 deliveries. So Boeing has good reason to brag about its Next-Generation 737 family, which marked its 4,000th delivery Friday.

“Together we’ve made this airplane the world’s favorite single-aisle airplane,” Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of the 737 Program, told employees and customers at Boeing Field Friday, in front of the 4,000th airplane — a 737-700 for China Southern Airlines. The event came a little over 14 years after Boeing delivered the first Next-Generation 737, also a 737-700, to Southwest Airlines on Dec. 17, 1997.

Boeing has actually delivered more than 7,000 737s, starting with the first 737-100, which Lufthansa received on Dec. 28, 1967. The company subsequently rolled out the 737-200, -200C, -200 Advanced, -300, -400 and -500 before introducing the Next-Generation family.

Airlines “delivered a very clear message to Boeing” about what they wanted from the Next-Generation 737, said Jack Gucker, Boeing’s now-retired vice president of 737 and 757 derivatives.

They wanted advanced technology that offered efficiency, simplicity, reliability, commonality and lower costs, and that’s what Boeing delivered, he said. “We have accomplished everything we set out to do with the Next-Generation 737 family and more.”

Boeing followed up the Next-Generation 737-700 with the -800 -600, -900 and -900ER. The addition of Blended Winglets, improved engines and enhanced aerodynamics have helped keep the 737 “the world’s more efficient and reliable single-aisle airplane,” Wyse said.

With the incorporation of the 787 Dreamliner-inspired Boeing Sky Interior, she added: “It offers a customer experience that’s unparalleled in the industry.”

Boeing also is building such 737 derivatives as the P-8A Poseidon for the U.S. Navy (and P-8I variant for India), Wyse noted.

There also have been many production changes, noted Diane Shineman, a quality assurance manager who has been with Boeing since 1988 and was there for the start of the Next-Generation 737.

“We have a moving line now in final assembly, which is pretty incredible,” she said. “Our rate is even more incredible.”

Boeing recently boosted its 737 production rate from 31.5 to 35 a month. It plans to go to 38 a month in the second quarter of 2013 and 42 in the first half of 2014.

“As fast as we can build them, (customers) want them,” Shineman said.

The fact that China Southern received the 4,000th Next-Generation 737 highlights the shift in the world’s commercial airliner demand from North America and Europe to Asia, and China in particular. Friday’s celebration featured Chinese drumming and lion and dragon puppets. The 4,000th airplane bears a stylized “4,000” on the fuselage.

“This is another landmark achievement for both Boeing and China Southern,” said Dong Suguang, executive vice president of China Southern Airlines. He said the airplane, with its Sky Interior, “will improve our customer travel experience and will further enhance our ability to attract high-end passengers in the market.”

The Sky Interior features new, sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, larger stow bins, more headroom around aisle seats, new switches and call buttons and LED lighting.

While Boeing still has more than 2,600 unfilled orders for the 737, it decided last year to launch a new version: the re-engined 737 MAX. This spelled the end of the Next-Generation 737, but extended the life of the 737 by putting off a replacement aircraft to some time in the next decade.

“The 737 MAX team will continue the 737 heritage,” Gucker said.

The decision to re-engine the 737 rather than launching a replacement aircraft follows in the thinking that went into the Next-Generation 737, said Manny Marasigan, a pre-flight team leader who has worked for Boeing since 1980 and was involved in flight testing on the first Southwest Airlines 737-700.

“We listened to what the customers wanted, and we gave it to them,” he said.


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