back to article Boeing 737 turns 50

Boeing's 737, the world's most common airliner, turned 50 over the weekend: the single-aisle workhorse first took to the skies on April 9th, 1967. The first versions of the plane were feeble by today's standards: the 737 100 “boasted” a range of just 1,150 miles (1,850km) and offering just 107 seats. Both of those features …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Hard to believe there are so many out there.

    And quite a few of the originals as well.

    The back log suggests that while the basic design may be pretty old the market it serves is still very real.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A venerable workhorse

    Flew in many of these.

    Some spanking new and some clearly recycled and held together with spit and tissue paper.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A venerable workhorse

      "Flew in many of these." I still do - it is the workhorse of choice for SouthWest. Not necessarily a big fan, but that has more to do with the sardine like accommodations than the plane itself.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        @Etatdame - eh, I myself am warming to Southwest. They're cheap, but not obnoxiously so (helloooo, Spirit, Ryanair etc.) and the cabin crew are invariably good-natured and pleasant.

        I used to swear by United and BA, but both have taken a nose-dive (pardon the unfortunate phrase) in recent years - copying the budget airlines' penny-pinching ways, but not realizing that by doing so they are destroying their brand image and customer loyalty. United since the Smisek era, and BA since the IAG acquisition - nope, sorry, I'm not going to put up with such obvious contempt for the customer.

  3. getHandle

    Tsk, tsk

    Like so many reviews there's no mention of likely pricing!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tsk, tsk

      A quick web search tuns up list prices from $80m-$117m or so. If you're a large fleet operator you'd get perhaps 10% discount, or more with a high value long term maintenace contract agreed at the same time. Bigger discounts will also be on offer when Boeing really need orders, of for unique "trend-setter" customers, but if they sell any aircraft at a loss, somebody else has to pay more to keep Boeing in business.

      1. GavinC

        Re: Tsk, tsk

        Actually, airlines placing large orders typically get 50% discounts, while most airlines get a discount of some sort. Like buying a new car, only mugs pay list price!

        Here's a source quoting Ryanair getting a 53% discount on a previous large 737 order: http://globalnews.ca/news/411110/ryanair-places-big-order-to-buy-175-boeing-737s-but-at-hefty-bulk-discount/

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: Tsk, tsk

      Pricing on aircraft is highly variable. The price can go from anywhere between $60 million to $120 million depending on features. On one you have RyanAir's "the luggage is treated better than the passengers" air-borne cattle-cars. On the other, you have Emirates' "Even Caligula would think its too decadent" flying palaces.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Tsk, tsk

        @Crazy Operations Guy On the other, you have Emirates' "Even Caligula would think its too decadent" flying palaces.

        "New for 2018 - Emirates First Class now offers...

        - Complementary beverages

        - Private lay-flat bed

        - Horse Marriage

        - Can choose up to 10 Economy Class passengers to be thrown to wild beasts in the cargo hold

        - Cabin crew will worship you as an actual, living god

        * Special offer during January - free stabbing as you exit the plane"

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    if it ain't broken

    Don't fix...

    Dad to hear of the number of accidents and fatalities but you have to wonder how many of those where human error rather than design flaws? In the same way that very popular cars have a high number of deaths involved with them does not make them inherently accident prone or unsafe.

    Enquiring minds and all that

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: if it ain't broken

      but you have to wonder how many of those where human error rather than design flaws?

      Surely we already know for the accident reports that the vast majority were human error? Design flaws rarely cause a hull-loss accident without some serious additional human input in some area of flight control or maintenance.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: if it ain't broken

        This is most likely the case a reasonable assumption but assumptions cam wrong and the simple reporting of figures can give implications when given without clarifcation and would probably require more reading than in currently prepared to give it of idle curiosity .

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: if it ain't broken

        There was a design flaw on the original model, the avionics bay was directly underneath the toilet and galley at the front, any "dripage" led to dead electronics which caused a couple of accidents.

        1. PhilBuk

          Re: if it ain't broken

          There was also a rudder problem with a servo causing the rudder to go hard over at low speeds. This caused a couple of accidents and fatalities. The problem was around for a few years But could be negated by raising the minimum speeds in certain configurations.

          Phil.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737_rudder_issues

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: if it ain't broken (-> Aircraft Safety - interesting tidbit)

      An interesting safety comparison. According to Ref. A, FedEx Express (the famous air cargo fleet) presently has 659 aircraft, has operated for about 45 years, and has had two (2) fatalities related to aircraft accidents. According to Ref. B, the founder of FedEx, has been involved in two (2) fatal car accidents. File under: just sayin'.

      A. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FedEx_Express#Major_incidents_and_accidents

      B. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_W._Smith#Forgery_indictment_and_car_accident

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: if it ain't broken

      > Dad to hear of the number of accidents and fatalities

      Snitch!

  5. Griffo

    You Sure about those numbers?

    So in 50 years, Boeing has managed to build 9,500

    The article says the have 4,500 on back-order. OK so they can now churn them over at 1 per day, but that's still 12 years worth of back-orders?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You Sure about those numbers?

      Back order probably includes options, which amount to an airline saying "we might order X more, we m might not". Not sure what the option to order conversion ratio is, but I'd guess it isn't very high.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: You Sure about those numbers?

      Blame Ryanair. They keep the planes for a year or two, then they order new planes and sell the old ones.

    3. NickSJ

      Re: You Sure about those numbers?

      Those are firm orders. 737 production rate is, I believe, about 42/month and will be rising to 47, then over 50 per month in the next couple of years. They can't churn them out fast enough.

  6. MatsSvensson

    Did they make it longer, or did they just cram 100 seats more in on the same space?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You already know the answer - airlines try to cram in more seats nowadays, and Boeing has no doubt stretched the design, so surely it is a little of both.

    2. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)
      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Longer. And more seats

        Even the short haul 737s used to have plenty of first class seats. Nowadays the seatcount is usually reported in an "all economy" config for a short haul plane. And most airliners operate their planes in that config too.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Or did they simply made the inside longer while keeping the outside the same ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, they added a 'steerage' deck.

  7. Diogenes

    resurrecting an old meme

    Pilots: Compare the original 737 flight deck to the state-of-the-art MAX glass displays

    Does MAX allow them to play Crysis ?

    1. wolfetone Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: resurrecting an old meme

      Only on Medium.

  8. Pen-y-gors

    But what about...

    <grumpy old sod mode>

    The Yanks can keep thousands of ancient 737s flying and carrying passengers safely, the Russians launch satellites using a rocket from the fifties, but can the Brits keep a single old Vulcan flying? Can they heck!

    Mutter, mutter....

    </off>

    1. Jay 2

      Re: But what about...

      Indeed. Though I guess Boeing are still making 737 bits, but no-one is making Vulcan bits! Meanwhile there are still some quite old (but overhauled) B52 lurking about in service...

    2. tedleaf

      Re: But what about...

      If you can find the parts and engineers with time machines,it would be perfectly possible to keep a Vulcan in flying condition,but parts are almost impossible to find and any experienced engineers are very long in the tooth now..

      Is a pity..

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Re: But what about...

        Great pity indeed. I saw a Vulcan thundering over at low altitude on a holiday in Yorkshire many years ago. Really impressive sight (and sound!). Amazing plane

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But what about...

        it would be perfectly possible to keep a Vulcan in flying condition,but parts are almost impossible to find

        IIRC, the reason for retirement of XH558 was primarily that BAe, RR and Marshalls were no longer willing to act as the design authority for the aircraft. Without a design authority (or type approval arrangements), the CAA won't permit a civilian aircraft to fly. I suspect that all and any spares needed could have been found or made anew if the will was there, but I don't see any way round the DA question. Even if you tried to set yourself up as the DA, I suspect insurers would be very reluctant to provide insurance, and you'd be taking on huge responsibilities, obligations and potential liabilities in respect of a near-70 year old design concept.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But what about...

          It comes down to the exhausting of its design life. They had to rework the leading edge of the wing to give it another couple of years. How often do you rebuild to keep it going.

          That's why no one was prepared to be retained as design authority. Too much paperwork, too much effort for too little recompense. Either the regulatory job is done properly, which would be uneconomic for the trust, or the risk is it drops out of the sky one day and fingers are pointed.

        2. bazza Silver badge

          Re: But what about...

          @Ledswinger,

          "IIRC, the reason for retirement of XH558 was primarily that BAe, RR and Marshalls were no longer willing to act as the design authority for the aircraft."

          That's basically the reason Concorde stopped flying too. Airbus needed the design engineers who kept Concorde flying to get the A380 project finished, and Air France were making a loss. DA withdrawal was presented as a fete acompli, leaving BA nowhere to go.

          There's some major differences between the potential longevity of Concorde and the Vulcan. The former was built to last, had a relatively easy flying life, got baked bone dry every time it flew, and hot enough to anneal the airframe too. That added up to a corrosion-free airframe whose metal was improving with age. Given continuing support from the likes of RR and Airbus, there'd never have been a "worn out" reason to retire Concorde. Even the electronics was infinitely repairable - very little in the way of integrated circuits or chips AFAIK, so easily repaired with replacement transistors alone. When they weighed the airframes after the post-crash design changes, they were heavier than expected. One quick flight up to Mach2.0 burnt off all the moisture that had accumulated whilst they'd sat idle, and the airframes were back down to their expected weight.

          The Vulcan in contrast was built for performance-at-almost-any-cost, had a harsh flying life in its later career (the RAF adopted low level flying - bumpy air down there), spent a lot of its time soaking up the damp British weather, and never got dried out. The result was metal that was vulnerable to corrosion and fatigue with a lot of high loadings. It was always going to wear out, and indeed that's basically what happened to poor old XH558 (plus engine life issues).

          I think it somehow odd that the faster plane would last longer than the slower one. It's the opposite way round with cars...

          It'll be interesting to see how the carbon fibre 787 and A350 lasts. CF in theory won't fatigue; so long as its not over stressed, it should last forever. They could become very long lived airframes.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: But what about...

            Somebody that restores WWII aircraft told me a similar problems applies to USAF models.

            The manufacturers are so worried that somebody will rebuild a B17, crash it into an airshow crowd and will sue Boeing - that they destroyed all the manuals/parts/tooling for vintage aircraft.

            Ironically it is easy to get service manuals for WWII German aeroplanes

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: But what about...

              > Somebody that restores WWII aircraft told me

              Pulled your leg

        3. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: But what about...

          The problem with keeping XH558 flying is that by now she had many more hours on her than any other Vulcan had ever made. Any aircraft in service has problems, graded from minor expected easily fixed problems down to disastrous but completely unknown problems. The Design Authority basically has to make an assesment as to how many unknown potentially catastrophic problems exist in the airframe and mitigate any known or known potential problems. Due to XH558s lifespan and flight time the amount of unknowns starts climbing as there is no "comparable lifetime" airframes to make an assesment against and cross check measurements against one another. The B-52 can be kept in the air because there is a large pool of them to cross-check and reference. Same with other "old workhorse" planes like the A-10 or the DC-3. Keeping a unique, single example, complex plane like the Vulcan flying just started to take too much time and become too much liability for the design authorities. Added to that the skills needed to keep this sort of design flying started to die out within the companies as people retire or die. Modern aircraft are built differently and follow different rules and regulations requiring different skills and knowledge. It's tragic but thats the way it is.

    3. The_H

      Re: But what about...

      The whole XH558 story is ending sadly. Apart from the farce of its final flight, the poor thing's now in storage and the visitor centre closed "pending an exciting new development" that... well let's face it, is pie in the sky at the moment.

      The 737 is quite a plane though - a nearly empty one on a near-sea-level runway is an awesome airplane to take off in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But what about...

        They are working on Canberra WK163 as a possible flyer.

  9. Stuart 22 Silver badge

    Is aviation progress grinding to a halt?

    Yes over 50 years Boeing has refined the design - as they have for the still in production(?) 747. But 50 years before its first flight - this was cutting edge design with what appears to be winglets, asymetrically profiled engines and unpaved runway capability ... plus non-stop transatlantic range capability. Yes I admit the 737 and its predecessors were amazing progress but even its proposed replacements today use a very similar configuration.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Vimy#/media/File:Vickers_Vimy.jpg

    Oh and I'm not going to draw parallels with how music moved on to peak in the late 60's too ;-)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Is aviation progress grinding to a halt?

      Actually, there are several new designs - but some of them are thought to be hardly acceptable by passengers (i.e. some flying wings ones, with no windows [no, not replace by Linux <G>]) or may lead to some safety issues (i.e. speed of evacuation). And most airports are anyway designed for the actual configurations, and different planes design would need different ways to access them.

      The "flying tube" still works well, so no need to replace it soon - just improve it. The original 737 was not exactly identical to the later models. No winglets, different engines, etc.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Is aviation progress grinding to a halt?

        Flying wing isn't for passengers really. Unless you put them into suspended animation (which, admittedly, would do wonders for space efficiency) or give them some really nice drugs, and lots of them.

        ( "After the barley sugar injections you won't care!" - Verrifast Plaine Co. LTD.)

        Unless you're a hardcore roller coaster enthusiast, flying tube makes for a much, much more comfortable ride.

    2. toughluck

      Re: Is aviation progress grinding to a halt?

      @Stuart 22

      Yes over 50 years Boeing has refined the design - as they have for the still in production(?) 747. But 50 years before its first flight - this was cutting edge design with what appears to be winglets, asymetrically profiled engines and unpaved runway capability ... plus non-stop transatlantic range capability. Yes I admit the 737 and its predecessors were amazing progress but even its proposed replacements today use a very similar configuration.

      I'm not sure if you're trolling, or just uninformed?

      Winglets are a very recent addition.

      Asymmetric engine nacelles come from the second generation where they were needed because of too small ground clearance (designed for turbojet engines and adapted to turbofans).

      New 737 is no longer capable of operating on unpaved runways because of the engines hanging a bit too low.

      Non-stop transatlantic range -- only a recent addition, not present with the first two generations.

      The biggest advantage that 737 brought to the market was that it could be operated by a flight crew of two instead of three.

  10. kmac499

    737 Pickup Truck

    The Canadians have modded some with a a big cargo door in the front and a sliding partition wall with seats at the back. they're called the 737-Combi

    These aircraft can easily and quickly be re-divided between different ratios of people (self loading frreight) and cargo (genuine freight). In addition to all the other 737 attributes this makes a great flying pickup truck for shifting goods and people into the far north.

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: 737 Pickup Truck

      ASL Airlines France has a fleet of 737 QC (Quick Change).

      http://www.aslairlines.fr/en/video/quick-change/

      (France, hmmmm. Icon should be a wine glass, not beer. Sorry.)

  11. NickSJ

    The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

    While the 737 is now over 50 years old, it is still by far Boeing's most popular airplane. What's really mind blowing is that this one model, which has now been updated 3 times, will almost certainly remain in service for at least 100 years. Given past model lifespans, the MAX model will probably be sold for about 20 years, and be in service for 30 years after that. That is equivalent to a World War I airplane remaining in airline service to this day. Amazing.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

      Although are there any parts of the original still in the latest model - or is it just the name that has been around for 50years

      1. NickSJ

        Re: The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

        The fuselage is still basically the same. The wings, engines, and most of the electronics have been changed.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

        Very much like Toyota Corolla then, more about the name than the actual product.

        "The Toyota Corolla is a line of subcompact and compact cars manufactured by Toyota. Introduced in 1966, the Corolla was the best-selling car worldwide by 1974 and has been one of the best-selling cars in the world since then. In 1997, the Corolla became the best selling nameplate in the world, surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle.[1] Toyota reached the milestone of 40 million Corollas sold over eleven generations in July 2013.[2] The series has undergone several major redesigns."

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

      Even more remarkable than the longevity of the 737 family is that of another Boeing creation, the B-52 Stratofortress. At present the USAF is still expecting to be flying these for another 20-odd years, which will not only take it up to near on 100 years since the maiden flight, but will also mean that the last flying examples will be around 80 years old by the time they retire - unlike the 737 story where its longevity is being helped along by newly built airframes, the last B-52 airframes were produced in the early 1960's...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

        Although the surviving ones don't fly many hours and have a ludicrous amount of maintenance lavished on them compared to a civil airliner.

        The surviving ones IIRC were the SAC nuclear ones which weren't used in vietnam and so have the lowest cycles.

      2. naive

        Re: The 737 will likely be operated for 100 years

        The business with old planes is not that easy. All the older planes the airforce is flying had major overhaul programs. Nearly all the 707-based planes are re-engined except from the E3-Sentry, KC-135's had two re-engine programs from J57 to TF33/JT3D, or from JT3D to CFM56.

        B52's had their J57 engines replaced by TF33 in the 90's.

        Many of the KC-135's and other 707-based planes had extensive rebuild programs due to corrosion in critical wing sections, pylons and nacelles.

        A10's were re-winged recently.

        B52G's had extensive wing modifications turning them into B52H together with the J57 engine replacement. This excludes the avionics updates that were needed when the decades passed.

        Availability of parts is an issue with these planes, even when they have AMARG.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

    I think its the fact that Airbus A300-600 American Airlines Flight 587, that crashed into Queens, New York on Nov 12th 2001, was eventually blamed on "agressive use" of the rudder controls by the co-pilot, rather than turbulence, which caused the composite materials to fail and the vertical stabiliser to snap off the plane.

    All it took was 20 secs of excess rudder movement, back and forth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

      Logically you should always fly on Airbus 340s then as they are accident free. Otherwise you are making your decisions based on emotion and anecdote.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

        In the context of your reply to the earlier poster, then you're right - the A340 has yet to suffer a fatal accident. It isn't however accident-free...

      2. Clive Harris
        Happy

        Re: I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

        <<Logically you should always fly on Airbus 340s then as they are accident free.>>

        That's probably because I designed part of the A340 ;)

        Actually it was only a small part - one of the chips in the LGCIU, the module which makes the wheels go up and down. It was almost 20 years ago, but I remember it well. Anything to do with aircraft is very bureaucratic, with mountains of paperwork and testing for the tiniest part (as it should be).

        The undercarriage controller on a big jet is actually quite complex, with multiple operating modes. It has to cope with a complex series of operations, opening and closing doors in the right sequence, tilting the wheel bogies at just the right time to squeeze them into the allocated space, etc. You have the added complication that the pilot sometimes chooses to not use all the wheels when lightly loaded. Then you have the possibility that, with the wheels half extended, or half retracted, he may change his mind and reverse the process, requiring the sequence to be worked backwards from wherever it's got to. You have various maintenance modes where, with the aircraft on a set of over-sized axle stands, you want to extend or retract wheels one at a time (but make sure that never happens at any other time!). To add to the complexity, the module also had to work with the A330 and A320.

        I must have worked on that IC for almost two years, and there was still work being done on it when I left at the end of my contract. A year or so later, I heard that an A340 had done a wheels-up landing at Sydney (so they're not entirely accident-free). Fortunately for me, this was found to be the result of a mechanical fault.

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

      If you think Airbus should be avoided due to their earliest design being unable to withstand abuse from the pilots, then presumably you also think Boeing should be avoided due to the 737 (yes, the darling of this very article) having had a rudder design flaw of its own which caused two of them (United 585 and USAir 427) to crash without the pilots needing to do anything, let alone anything like repeatedly mashing the rudder pedals back and forth for 20 seconds, which is actually quite a long period of time in this context.

      As much as I admire Airbus for having achieved so much success as they have in the cut-throat airliner business, and for being a pan-European collaboration we (at least those of us on the right side of the pond) ought to generally be proud of, I also see much to admire in long and distinguished history of Boeing. They both make mistakes, but they also both produce some truly world-class pieces of aviation engineering that I personally am only too happy to trust my life to.

      So whenever I then hear stuff like this, or the TL:DR "if it ain't Boeing I ain't going" variant, it makes me think the person saying it really doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.

    3. elljay75

      Re: I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

      The rudder in question exceeded the certification requirements, and the NTSB tested the composite materials because the rudder had suffered a delamination problem before it was first put into service. American Airlines were number 2 on the hitlist because they weren't training their pilots good recovery techniques in simulators. If the co-pilot hadn't been kicking the rudder back and forth, the aerodynamic forces would have stabilised and the accident would never have happened.

      That said, Airbus also get a dishonorable mention as the A300 had really sensitive rudder inputs with a pretty limited amount of travel to go from hard left to hard right. (A300s and A310s used "real" flight controls as opposed to fly-by-wire systems). There were also 10 previous incidents involving rudder overstress with that particular aircraft, which suggests a bunch of overzealous pilots or that the rudder was oversensitive.

      Report is here ..

      http://www.webcitation.org/6MCNWZiF6?url=http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2004/AAR0404.pdf

      With all that said..... Given that most airliners from Boeing and Airbus now use composite materials, it really doesn't matter what you're flying nowadays - it's likely to be some sort of composite you're sat in! And airliners such as the B777 use graphite panels as their rudder panels, so clearly Boeing also see merit in using composite materials for flight controls.

  13. Mike Richards

    Clever design

    Joe Sutter (who went on to design the 747) talks a bit about the 737 in his book.

    Boeing wanted to avoid the stability problems associated with rear engines and high tails on planes like the Caravelle and BAC 1-11. So Sutter put the engines right under the wings rather that at the back or on pylons - which lightened the fuselage allowing for six across seating (the DC-9 only had five across), meant less noise and vibration in flight, more rear cabin space, shorter landing gear and easier maintenance at ground level.

    1. Orv
      Boffin

      Re: Clever design

      Makes sense -- there are some serious design consequences for having rear-mounted engines. You're putting the heaviest components in the entire aircraft at the extreme aft end, which creates center-of-gravity issues that have to be compensated for elsewhere. It also usually requires a T-tail to keep the horizontal stabilizer out of the jet blast, which in turn requires a stiffer vertical fin, which adds even more weight right where you don't need it. Finally, the T-tail makes the plane vulnerable to an unrecoverable "deep stall," where the wing blocks airflow to the tail at certain angles of attack.

      There are advantages, though -- there's less noise (except in the back) and you can have a cleaner wing design with full-width flaps, since it doesn't have to support the engines.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Clever design

        'There are advantages, though -- there's less noise (except in the back) and you can have a cleaner wing design with full-width flaps, since it doesn't have to support the engines.

        Although, and mainly to add to your list of benefits, hanging them under the wings forwards of the centre of pressure relieves the aerodynamic twisting moment on the wing which allows you to make it lighter. Well less stiff which amounts to the same thing.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Clever design

        @Orv

        Finally, the T-tail makes the plane vulnerable to an unrecoverable "deep stall," where the wing blocks airflow to the tail at certain angles of attack.

        Wouldn't that be true in all cases where the horizontal stabilizer is aft (i.e. not a canard like in the Saab Viggens and Gripens) of the wing? Maybe it's just worse with a t-tail?

        1. SEDT

          Re: Clever design

          It's a known issue, and resulted in the fitting of a parachute in the tail. The idea being that in a nose up stall the parachute could be deployed to drag the tail up (point the nose down) and restore airflow to the front wings

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Clever design

          Theoretically deep stall IS possible with a "standard" horizontal stabilizer but simple geometry means that it can only be unrecoverable if the stabilizer is above a certain height, a normal and/or cruciform tail is normally below this height.

          What happens in a deep stall is that the horizontal stabilizer moves through the dirty stall turbulance of the main wing and thus the elevator is no longer effective to control the altitude and the nose is no longer pushed down. Thus if the centre of aerodynamic force and the centre of gravity align the plane does not recover from the stall.

          The why of how this happens can be a long story but the gist of it is that any wing stalls at 15 degrees angle of attack. Maybe a few degrees more or less depending on flightlevel and flaps config. One can then draw out the wake zone of the stalled main wing and the position of the stabilizer relative to the main wing and determine when the stabilizer is within the wake zone. With a normal tail when you draw this wake zone in a stalled situation the tail is below the wake zone in all but the most extreme stall angles and the pilot and aerodynamic forces have plenty of time to correct the situation. In a T-tail design the tail is higher up and thus closer to this wake zone. Thus control authority is lost for much lower stall angles. And additional problem is that in a T tail the tail has to be above the wake zone for the aircraft to regain normal flight and thus has to transition back from high angle to lower angles, while a traditional design does not have this problem.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Clever design

      Joe Sutter must have copied this then, such a new and clever design.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Me_262

      (I have a feeling I have seen props on the wings too)

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Clever design

        'Joe Sutter must have copied this then, such a new and clever design.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Me_262

        (I have a feeling I have seen props on the wings too)'

        Quite possibly, it's more noticeable on the 707 where they're hung forward of the wing to increase the moment whereas on the 262 and early 737 they're under the wing.

  14. toughluck

    Retire the 737 already!

    I may be a bit grumpy, but 737 is not the best small aircraft anymore. One huge disadvantage it has is that it does not allow automatic cargo loading and requires manual handling. This substantially increases costs.

    Moreover, limited ground clearance means it works well with airstairs, but it means it cannot use larger engines than it currently has.

    What Boeing should really consider is revisiting the 757, since 737 basically reached it in capability, and introducing something to compete better with Airbus's A320 family.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Retire the 737 already!

      Why? If airlines are still happily ordering 737s, then introducing a new design creates new risks, huge front loaded development costs. Far better to go for incremental but signifcant improvements. Boeing have been toying with a complete new design for years now, but clearly have yet to conclude that the game is worth the candle.

      Other than the design concept and outward appearance, I wonder how much in common there really is between a 737-100 and today's production aircraft? Wings are different, engines are different, avionics and controls are different, stabiliser and tail aerodynamics are different, many of the materials are different, production methods are different. At some stage since 1967 Boing would have had to put all the designs into a digital system, and I'd guess that they have then optimised things that we can't see like the fuselage structure and things we don't notice like the undercarriage design.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Retire the 737 already!

        I wonder how much is due to FAA/CAA regulations.

        If you keep the name the same and gradually change each part then you just file a stack of Engineering Change Orders with very specific and limited testing. Renaming may make it a new aircraft and have to certify everything from scratch to today's standards.

        Same with pilot and maintenance certification, it is probably simpler to get certification updates to a new procedure on the "same" aircraft than be trained on an totally new one.

  15. Orv

    I used to work in Renton, WA, and would sometimes watch 737 fuselages roll by on the train tracks. Quite an unusual sight.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      With the speed of US railways I'm surprised this is easier than flying - even with the TSA factor.

      In europe for any journey <500km it probably would be quicker.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Not many aircraft that fit other aircraft inside

        SuperGuppy and Beluga notwithstanding.

  16. SkippyBing

    Not to mention the P-8 Poseidon

    Which is what happens when you make a 50 year old airliner design into a maritime patrol aircraft, rather than trying to make 50 year old airliners into maritime patrol aircraft.

  17. bep

    Much as I'd like to be impressed

    I'm afraid it just demonstrates the 'brick wall' aircraft design has hit. You still reach the same destinations at much the same speed in a more-cramped cabin. The only advantage I can see is that the longer range means you can have less stopovers, but for most routes it seems to be much the same now as 50 years ago. I guess it is cheaper, but oh how I wish it was faster!

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Much as I'd like to be impressed

      And if you count the TSA security theatre airport overhead, then in some places even if the aircraft fly faster - such as replacing turboprops like Dash-8's with jets - the total trip time (from leaving home to reaching destination) actually takes longer than it did 20 years ago.

    2. annodomini2

      Re: Much as I'd like to be impressed

      Boils down to 3 things:

      1. Operating costs.

      2. Customer Confidence.

      3. Engineering cost for a radical concept.

      A component of the Operating costs, is the cost of the Aircraft itself. If this was replaced with a new radical design, the engineering costs would be high and Customer confidence low. This will massively increase the cost of an Aircraft, increasing operating costs.

      If the Aircraft were vastly more efficient e.g. 50%+, you may have some interest, but the operating costs have to show significant benefit before you will get custom.

  18. Potemkine Silver badge
    Headmaster

    All those variants have added up to 9,448 shipments, making it the world's most popular airliner

    I thought it was the DC-3 with 16,079 produced?

    1. SkippyBing

      To be fair, 607 of those were built as airliners. The other 15,472 were converted into airliners after the original owners sold them on. You know the sort of thing, one careful owner, passenger seating only half used, tow hitch.

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