In 1965, the Boeing name was synonymous with big multiengine jet airplanes, so when the company announced its new commercial twinjet, the 737, it quickly earned the nickname “Baby Boeing.”
In 1967, the smaller, short-range 737 twinjet was the logical airplane to complement the 707 and the 727. On Dec. 28, 1967, Lufthansa took delivery of the first production 737-100 model, in a ceremony at Boeing Field. The following day, United Airlines, the first domestic customer to order the 737, took delivery of the first 737-200.
According to Boeing, by 1987, the 737 was the most ordered plane in commercial history. In January 1991, 2,887 737s were on order, and Models 737-300, -400 and -500 were in production.
But despite being constantly updated (the 737 MAX is Boeing’s newest family of single-aisle airplanes), according to former USAF C-17 pilot and now airline pilot John Tringali, the Boeing 737 remains a 1960s jet.
‘I went from flying a C-17 (heads up display, fly by wire, glass cockpit) to a 737 Next Gen (glass cockpit) and felt like I went back in time about 3 decades. The 737 is a garbage jet, and I flew it for years. It’s like a new 1960s plane with a modern instrument panel slapped on. The overhead panel still has cutouts from where the round-dial mechanical instruments used to be,’ Tringali says on Quora.
‘Airline training is nothing like military training. In the Air Force, we have tons and tons of simulators and ground classes, in the airlines you get a take-home exam and start getting evaluated in the first of only a few sims because “they don’t have time” to train in the simulator. Literally, I was learning landing techniques from 737 friends on Facebook because the sim instructor didn’t do it.
‘On the C-17, and really any modern plane with an electronic overhead panel, the word “auto” means automatic, as in, it will automatically do what it needs to do. For example, in the C-17 running pneumatics off the APU, when you press the engine start button the associated A/C pack shuts itself down automatically to provide more air to the engine. Pretty standard for a jet, usually if you’re trying to run more than just the engine starter off the APU air you’ll get a hot or hung start. The C-17 APU was a beast, so it could run 2 sources simultaneously, like 2 engines starting together, 2 A/C packs together, or 1 of each, so if you had both packs running for cooling and started an engine on the left side, the left pack shut off by itself. Auto.’
‘The 737 has pack and isolation switches on the pneumatic panel that say “auto” but they really only sort of mean that. I’m sitting in the sim and go to start an engine, but there’s no bleed air. “You have to shut off the pack.” says the instructor “But the switch is in auto.” I say. “Yeah, but you have to manually take it from auto to off.” Okay, still no pressure “You have to open the isolation valve now.” “But it says auto!” “Yes, but you have to manually move it from auto to open.” So I’m like “What the f**k does auto mean in this jet?”
‘Same thing with going from generator to APU power. The C-17, and the 757/767, just auto-connect the busses when the APU gets up to speed. 737? Nope, after it starts you have to manually connect it.
‘Also, the 737 is incredibly loud in the cockpit. Just constant fan and air noise.
‘Everyone who flies it for a while can’t hear out of one ear.
‘It can’t hold more than one altitude worth of wind aloft data, unlike the 757/767, so if you want to look for better tailwinds at altitude you have to refer to your paper flight plan and manually do it. In other words, while cruising, the other jets monitor the fuel weight, density altitude, and 4 different wind levels to calculate the optimal flight level to cruise at. 737? Nope.
‘The controls are super sloppy and lag, which was a huge problem for me coming from a C-17 where the controls are sharp, crisp and responsive. Even the 767 is snappy compared to the 737.’
‘I could go on… but I’ll eventually be flying it so I shouldn’t keep bashing it but… what a POS. Boeing should have buried it and tried to restore the 757 before going down the whole Max fiasco.
‘The jumpseat also sucks.’
Photo credit: Riyad Filza and Bernal Saborio from Costa Rica via Wikipedia
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If you have an almost unlimited budget to design a new aircraft like the C17 he is correct. But when you live in the reality of you have to make a profit you need to focus on other matters. Example performance, the B737 performance is better than an A320. It weighs less and carries more people further with those people than an A320. Its cockpit is old, but the limitation is that it is certified under FAR part 25. In the early 1990's Boeing wanted to make even more changes to the cockpit of the B737 but the FAA said they would have to recertify the B737 from the ground up adding something like 3.5 billion dollars to the cost which airlines at the time were not willing to pay for.