A little less than a month after Herb Kelleher filed papers to establish our Company, the aircraft that would become the cornerstone of Southwest airlines operation took flight for the first time on April 9, 1967. Over the weekend, a birthday party was held at Boeing Field in Seattle to celebrate the half century of service of the 737.
The world’s first 737 is on display at the Museum of Flight, along with the prototypes of the 727 and 747. As the smallest jet airliner Boeing produced, it was once referred to as the “Baby Boeing” when compared to the lager aircraft manufactured at the time. Although it never saw airline service, it also flew as a NASA test aircraft prior to its final flight home in 2003.
About a year after line number 1’s first flight, Rollin King (also a pilot and later a Southwest Captain) flew a 737 on a demonstration flight while establishing Southwest. 50 years later we’ve gone on to fly more than 800 Boeing 737s as the world’s largest operator. To help celebrate this milestone, our first production MAX in full Heart livery was on hand to highlight the next chapter of the most successful airliner in the history of commercial aviation.
It’s pretty amazing to imagine that a plane once slated for cancellation after lackluster sales has now gone on for a production run of 50 years and close to 10,000 deliveries. The fuselage design shared with the 707, 727, and 757 has been improved several times, but remains the same basic aircraft type Southwest proudly flies today.