Civil Aviation

Boeing 737 Vs Airbus A320: which is the better Short Haul Airliner? Boeing 737 Pilot gives Unbiased Perspective

Boeing Vs Airbus

In the vast expanse of commercial aviation, two giants dominate the sky—Boeing and Airbus. These aerospace juggernauts are synonymous with modern air travel, producing a significant portion of the world’s commercial aircraft. According to Bristol Groundschool, yet, for the casual traveller or aviation enthusiast, the differences between a Boeing and an Airbus aircraft may not be immediately apparent.

One of the fundamental differences between Boeing and Airbus lies in their design philosophies. Boeing tends to favour a more traditional approach, often allowing pilots greater manual control. On the other hand, Airbus is renowned for its emphasis on fly-by-wire technology, incorporating more automation into the flying process.

According to Flight Deck Friend, the best way to describe the fundamental differences of Boeing and Airbus is to compare it’s two short haul airliners, the A320 and Boeing 737 because they are the most widely used short haul aircraft by airlines around the world by some margin.

How do they compare to each other?

Boeing 737 Vs Airbus A320

‘It’s a heated debate usually between two people who have not flown both,’ says Randy Duncan, Boeing 737 pilot, on Quora.

‘The Airbus people say their system lowers pilot workload and improves their situational awareness because it allows them to focus on the conduct of the flight at a higher level rather than worrying about flight dynamics.

‘The Boeing people say they don’t want some “damn computer” flying the airplane and that they have full control of the airplane and can roll it upside down if they needed to.

‘A320 overhead panel. I don’t know how it works but it looks well designed.

‘A 737 overhead panel. I do know how this one works but the layout is complex and can get confusing.’

Duncan continues;

‘I fly a 737 which has no stability augmentation except in the yaw axis. I hear a lot of Boeing pilots complaining about Fly By Wire. The ones with the strongest opinions have never flown an Airbus.

‘Boeing does have Fly by Wire in their widebody aircraft. The design philosophy is slightly different but there’s still a microprocessor that makes dynamic decisions about control deflection.

Different philosophies

‘Personally, I like my little 737 and I enjoy flying it. I would love to fly an Airbus but not enough to go through a training cycle to do it. When I’ve ridden in the jumpseat of an Airbus, I’m pretty much lost. I wouldn’t know how to start the engines and the procedures are foreign to me.

‘The Airbus cockpit looks spacious and well designed compared to the cramped quarters in a 737. I particularly like the Airbus jumpseat. The 737 jumpseat is an ironing board type of thing that folds out of the wall and the legroom makes a coach seat seem like luxury. It would be an engineering challenge to make it less comfortable. The 737 layout is very old and although it has had a lot of avionics, engine and wing updates, it still feels dated. That said, the 737 is very, very reliable. It’s very rare that we can’t dispatch the airplane. That wasn’t true of the older models.’

Duncan concludes;

‘I don’t really know which airplane is superior. Both companies are great at designing and building airplanes. The philosophy may be different in terms of controls and layout but both deliver a safe and reliable product.’

United Airlines Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800 on final approach at San Francisco

Photo credit: Bill Larkins via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

    • Read the whole article, he lists all the pros and cons of both aircraft ;-)

  • I have flown both and presently fly the "Bus"...again. Much more comfortable plane, especially the cockpit, as noted. Spacious, quiet, and a table to eat on like a civilized person (lol). No yoke, no trim wheel trying to bust your kneecap every minute and fewer overhead switches to scar the top of your noggin. But the "Guppy" does have some better pilot friendly automation and FMCs.

  • I fly on 737s all the time and I greatly appreciate their reliability. BUT...

    They really are the Greyhound buses of the air. Terrible from comfort point of view. Noisy, bouncy, cramped, windows too low, etc. Compared to the joy of flying in a DC-9/MD-80, the 737 is torture. The DC-9 with the engines in the back and thin wing was dead-quiet and smooth as butter. I miss that bird.

    I have flown on A320s a few times, but not enough to form a strong opinion. They were uneventful trips.

    Due to the customer-hostile ways other airlines operate, I've mostly only flown on Southwest for that last 25+ years. If SW doesn't go there, I'm not going (weddings, births, and funerals excepted). As a consequence, I've been flying almost exclusively on the least-comfortable, ancient jet design in the air over America.

  • I’ve got several thousand hours in both Boeing & Airbus. The 737 is designed to maximize Boeing’s bottom line. For both pilots & passengers’ perspective the 737 is very basic, 60s tech, with many design flaws that should have been worked out years ago. As noted the overhead is a disaster. How poor the design has over reached is the quest for more profit is summed up with MCAS. The aircraft is literally dangerous without it.

  • Wouldn’t want to fly an Airbus because he’d have to take a course?! Incredible. He'll spend his whole career on the 37? Wow. Intellectually lazy.

  • Having been ATP rated In B727, B757/767, DC9, MD11 and having Only Simulator experience in the A320, I still say “If it ain’t Boeing I’m not going!” Period!

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