Today, our final 737-500 aircraft will retire from the Southwest fleet. The retirement of the -500 marks a major milestone in Southwest’s fleet modernization plan that includes the accelerated retirement of the Classic fleet. By fall of next year, all 737-300 aircraft will be retired from the fleet making way for an all 737 Next Generation (-700 and -800) and 737 MAX (-7 and -8) fleet!
Southwest was Boeing’s launch Customer for the 737-500 in 1987 with an order of 20 aircraft, and the -aircraft debuted in the Southwest fleet in 1990. The 737 -500 was introduced as a replacement for the 737-200 aircraft. The plane came equipped with the CFM56 engine giving the -500 impressive fuel efficiency over 737-200s. (The CFM56 engine has seen many variations and advancements over the years and still powers our -300, -700, and -800 aircraft to this day.) The airframe of the 737-500 is smaller than the 737-300 which allowed it to fulfill a network need to carry fewer passengers on longer routes more economically than both the 737-200 and 737-300. By 1992, Southwest operated 25 737-500s.
By the early ‘90s, Southwest Airlines had grown beyond, well, the southwest. As our routes lengthened and the demand for longer-haul travel increased, the niche benefit of the 737-500 became less of an advantage for Southwest. While the 737-500 entered our fleet later than the 737-300, the smaller airframe and seating capacity of only 122 made it a better candidate to retire out of our fleet first. In 1992, we took delivery of our last 737-500 aircraft.
The 737-500 is a great airplane that carried millions of Southwest Customers and Employees safety to their destinations. We’re celebrating with our Customers and Crews on the final flights of the 737-500 on today; and, as we do with many milestones in our Company history, we plan to commemorate the 737-500 in a future display on the walls of our growing Headquarters campus.