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Flashback Fridays: An Early Visit to the Boeing Factory

Aviator C

I think it’s time for some more photos of Southwest Airlines aircraft and hot pants from the early days.  While rummaging through our files recently, I found another bunch of slides and negatives that I had never seen before.  Especially for the 1970s, we have a lot of photos that were taken for promotional purposes, which were used once or twice, and then stored away and forgotten.  For example, our original inflight magazine, Southwest Airlines Magazine, had a monthly feature called Hostess of the Month” and I’ve written about these before.

I’d bet money that the photos I found for this Flashback Fridays installment were used in this feature, and I think they were taken during the early summer of 1977 at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington where the 737 is assembled.  (See below for my reasoning.)  In the photo above, our Flight Attendant is wearing street clothes and standing under a rack of fuselage stringers.  A similar photo can’t be made in Renton today because, starting in 1983, 737 fuselages have been assembled in Wichita.

The next photo appears to be a bulkhead template, with a Boeing employee presenting a sidewall covering.  Looking at the mix of patterns in the Boeing employee’s wardrobe, one has to wonder if interior designs were her strong point.

After changing into her uniform, our Flight Attendant poses by a set of main landing gear.  No doubt the photographer intended this to be a comparison of “legs.”  Note the 737 rudder by her left elbow.  The tail has the start of the Southwest livery, but looks as though it still has a good way to move down the production line.

Compare the production status of the aircraft in the previous photo with this one.  They obviously are two different aircraft because this airframe is almost completed.  The Flight Attendant’s heroic pose leads the battle against high fares. 

And finally we have this under-wing shot.  I am about 85 percent sure that the registration above her left shoulder is N28SW, which was delivered to Southwest in early July 1977.  That would date the photo to probably June of that year, based on the mostly completed state of the aircraft in this photo.  N29SW was delivered in early September of that year, so that may indeed be the aircraft in the landing gear photo up above.

On an entirely different level, these photos really represent the end of an era.  In 1977, the airlines were living the last full year of regulation.  Southwest was serving most major Texas cities, and it was a Company poised to spread its wings beyond Texas.  You really are looking at a slice of life that was about to change in hundreds of ways.