Many of you have been following our updates as our new 737-800 moved through the construction process and through the first test flight on February 23. One of those steps was the “in-person” introduction today to members of the media, Southwest Employees, and guests at events hosted in Dallas.
The day kicked off with a media preview of the new aircraft, followed by an Employee celebration. At the media preview, Southwest Executives Mike Van de Ven and Brian Hirshman displayed the aircraft to reporters, showcasing the highlights of the -800’s features like the new Boeing Sky Interior, as well as discussing how the -800 will allow us to add overwater routes and more capacity to slot-restricted airports. Boeing Vice President and Program Manager for the 737 Program, Bev Wyse, closed out the media presentation with a recap of Southwest’s long association with the 737.
Then the aircraft taxied over to the Employee event, where it was dedicated and named Warrior One in salute of the Southwest Employees’ Warrior Spirit. The 737-800 will take our airline to new places and allow us compete in highly competitive, but highly restricted markets like LaGuardia, so it’s only fitting that we name it Warrior One to reflect that “can do” attitude.
This is a beautiful aircraft, and I know our Customers will love it, but it also plays an important strategic role in our future. Warrior One and the other -800s carry 175 passengers, which is a whopping 28 percent increase over our current fleet configuration. Besides improving our unit costs per flight, the -800 gives us opportunities for longer-haul flying and schedule flexibility by adding capacity in those high-demand, slot-controlled, or gate-restricted airports.
The Boeing Sky Interior offers a quieter, more comfortable environment for Customers with taller ceilings and more overhead bin space, improved operational security features, and ambient LED reading and ceiling lighting. Besides being more effective, the new interior is energy efficient. Also, our great Flight Attendants can match the lighting to the mood onboard the aircraft—subdued at night or bright and festive for a Las Vegas flight.
After the formal part of the event, Employees were allowed to tour the aircraft and see firsthand the new Boeing Sky Interior with its improved sidewalls, larger overheads, and new ceiling with mood lighting.
After some final certifications, Warrior One and our second 737-800 will be set to enter scheduled service on April 11. I hope you all have a chance to fly on a brand new Southwest -800 very soon!
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A lot of you have been wondering about the status of our first 737-800 since it took its initial flight back on February 23. Well, today, we took delivery of our brand new aircraft in Seattle. However, don’t look for it at one of our airports right away because the hard work isn’t done yet, and over the next few weeks, the airplane has a very busy schedule:
The plane will head to Paine Field at Everett for make ready and the installation of the WiFi Hotspot. Then the -800 is scheduled to make a quick visit in Dallas for an Employee event. Also in Dallas, the aircraft will go through several standard tests and evaluations performed by the FAA. Once those tests are complete it will be routed to a Southwest city to begin service.
Get excited! We’re getting close!
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I was lucky enough to attend a Late Show in person and the guest was Jack Hannah. He is amazing as are the animals. I'm glad we were able to be a part of this show to get the otters to New York.
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This week, we take a break from our series on the history of the Boeing 737 because I recently found more (and somewhat bizarre) photos of early Southwest promotions. Don’t worry; we will resume the 737 series next Friday with a look at the 737-300, -400, and -500.
Ask most people what first comes to their mind about Southwest’s early days, and they will probably mention Flight Attendants in hot pants. However, if you go by the photographic record, giant stuffed animals should be a close second. Many of you will remember our look at the stuffed characters from the ill-fated Houston children’s superstore, Kid’s Kounty. On October 14, 1973, these “kharacters” from the store took over our operation at Houston Hobby. Our records show that calm was quickly restored, and no “kreature” lost any stuffing in the process.
In our early days, we also carried nationally known characters like these two guys from the cast of the children’s television show, “H. R. Pufnstuf.” The show went off the air in September 1971, but this photo could have been taken after that date because the characters lived on after the show ended. The younger boy in the photo looks like he can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
Robots have a charm (and a lot of hyphens) all their own, whether it is R2-D2, C-3PO, or the Class M-3, Model B9 robot from the television show, “Lost in Space.” The show had been off the air for three years when Southwest took to the air in June 1971, but a local Houston television station made their own robot, which was a Space City homage to the Robinson family’s steel servant. The television station’s robot wears number 13, which is KTRK’s channel. The Houston station had a children’s show named, “Cadet Don,” and it appears that one of our original Flight Attendants made a visit to the show with a Southwest airplane model (featuring our original titling). From the look on her face, it would appear that Channel 13’s Robot had a certain metallic charm.
While one of our original Flight Attendants was the center of a robot’s infatuation, another was being carried away by a gorilla. I have no idea what was behind this photograph, or why a big ape was allowed around the aircraft. (Note the original lettering style on the tail of the airplane.) Hopefully the final line from “King Kong” doesn’t apply here: “It was beauty that killed the beast.”
In probably the most surreal photo of the bunch (and considering the photos in this group, that is quite an accomplishment), we have a stuffed cat with an appetite for whiskey. I can only guess that this is a promotion with Early Times for a “Tom Cat” cocktail.
In 1973, we had live “entertainment” on our flights, so I guess airborne concerts have been a Southwest tradition for almost 40 years. This suave crooner has a slight resemblance to Robert Goulet, but does he have the same panache as Mr. Goulet? Maybe the answer to that lies in the woman’s expression. She looks enamored, amused, and trapped, with trapped being her primary concern. Upon first seeing this photo, I was reminded of Bill Murray’s old lounge singer skit on Saturday Night Live. Aviation geeks may want to take note of the Southwest birthday sign in the background. The woman is wearing a “Save Love, Beat Braniff” button. The fight for Southwest to stay at Love Field was very hot at this time.
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we close with this early St. Patty’s Day promotion. Our Flight Attendant wears a shamrock on her uniform, as she offers a tasty Southwest shamrock mug of Irish Mist. Don’t forget, we pick up the 737 story in the next edition.
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We had originally planned to end this series with the post about the Boeing celebration party, but I just had to share these photos from Boeing of the first flight of our new 737-800. An airplane’s first flight is one of the most significant events in its history, much more than its completion date. In the case of N8301J, it came alive with its first flight (a Boeing test flight) on February 23.
In this photo of the aircraft taxiing to the end of the runway, we really get a good indication of the -800’s longer fuselage.
Lined up and ready for takeoff, the 737’s paint gleams, even in the overcast Washington sky.
Then, the big moment comes, and we have lift-off, as N8301J enters its working environment.
Here is the result of all that hard work, the dedication of workers in Renton, Wichita, and all over the country. I still find it hard to believe that raw metal and other materials can be transformed over a few months into such a magnificent machine.
May this airplane have a long and safe career transporting our Customers and Crew to familiar and new destinations.
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At the end of our last installment, our first Boeing 737-800 was being towed into the paint shop. As this batch of photos from some of our folks who travelled to Renton shows, the painting process is complete.
Like most everything we do, a celebration was in order to show off our latest “baby,” and several of our top Leaders were there for the unveiling. And like so many of our celebrations, the great folks at Boeing joined by providing this commemorative banner.
Here is N8301J with a gleaming new coat of Canyon Blue. Just think back to those first photos we received of the fuselage being completed in Wichita and compare the progress. Now think forward to how many business deals will be sealed, how many families will travel for the holidays, how many kids will go off to college, how many veterans will come home from serving our country, how many relationships will prosper, and how many memorable vacations will be completed as a result of travel on this airplane?
Mike Van de Ven, our Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, spoke to the small gathering that included Brian Hirshman, Senior Vice President Technical Operations, who was seated on stage with officials from Boeing. They were there to represent the Southwest Employees from many departments throughout the Company who have been working on the 737-800 program.
After short comments, it was time to tour the airplane. Although the photo above is a bit dark, it gives you an idea of the various types of mood lighting available with the new Sky Interior. Someone is checking out one of the new style overhead bins.
All of our Flight Attendants and Provisioning Agents will be interested in this first photo of the completed aft galley, which includes a Southwest first, beverage carts. Ours are carts with a difference though because they are smaller and more maneuverable than those you may have encountered on other airlines. If you remember the photos of the galley being installed, you can see the progress in the final version. The coffee maker even has a pot, ready to brew. At the lower corners of the photo are the backs of the jumpseats.
Vice President Cabin Services Mike Hafner poses at the nose of the aircraft. Of interest in this photo (besides Mike’s smile of course) is the 800 identifier on the bottom of the nose. This will remind our Ramp Agents that a longer -800 is pulling into their gate.
By closing with this photo, we show both the remaining shortterm tasks to be done and the longterm promise of this new versatile aircraft. In the longterm, the ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operations) capability will give us the capability to go to new places. In the shortterm, while the airframe is complete, a lot of hard work remains to make it ready for service. All of the systems from coffee makers to the engines will have to be run and tested. Then the WiFi Hotspot will have to be installed. Those steps aren’t really photogenic, so this will probably be the last Flash Forward. Stay tuned for coverage on the delivery of our first 737-800.
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A huge thank you to you and your team for a fantastic job. I didn't mean to disparage the work you all do, and I am sorry you took offense to my comment. I was just describing the items visible in the photograph. I know there is a huge amount of physical labor and talent that goes into every paint job. The same as is involved in the entire production process. Computers are just tools. You and your coworkers are the heart that goes into every Boeing airplane, and I have mentioned that in many of these posts.
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When I got this batch of photos from Boeing, I was really excited, and I hope you will be too. All that metal and hard work seen in previous photos has come together to produce our first 737-800. Before I get into the fun, I think a word of thanks to all the Boeing workers and those of their suppliers like Spirit Aerospace in Wichita is appropriate. Their efforts and dedication give us the means to serve our Customers and for us to earn our paychecks. Colleen is fond of saying: “We are in the Customer Service business, and we just happen to fly airplanes.” That is certainly true, but oh, what airplanes we fly. Also, thanks to Tim Bader in Boeing's Public Relations Department for being our photo correspondent. My Coworker, Marilee McInnis, will be thrilled to see these next two photos. In the one above, we see workers installing the new environmentally friendly carpet that is also part of our Evolve interior program for our 737-700s. And because the carpet comes in squares, we don’t have to replace a long strip of carpet for just one bad spot. In previous installments, some of you have asked about the PSUs (passenger service units), and this is a great perspective about how they look. Also note that the Sky Interior ceiling has been installed, and it looks like the mood lighting is already at work. With this photo, the cabin looks pretty complete. Our new seat style with the lower profile and renewable seat covers has been installed, and for those of you who haven’t been fortunate enough to fly on a factory-fresh airplane, this step also marks an olfactory milestone—it now smells like a new airplane. That sensation is very similar to the “new car smell.” It’s been a while since we saw the outside of the airplane, but it now is looking pretty complete. The General Electric CFM-56 engines are being installed, the entry doors have been attached, and the radome secured. This close-up provides a good look at all the construction structures that surround the aircraft. The white panels on the ground underneath the wing root are lighting that illuminates the bottom of the fuselage. A technician is working at the top of the engine on the left wing. Our first 737-800 nears the end of its journey through the assembly hall, and we can look back at the path it has taken. Look under the nose at the floor of the building, and you will see the track that the magnetic tug uses to move the airframes down the production line. Almost all of the scaffoldings have been removed, offering a good view of our new airplane. At the very back of the building, three new fuselages just arrived from Wichita await their trip through the factory. This constant stream of new aircraft is visual proof of the 737’s success. “Renton, we have roll-out.” N8301J makes its initial journey as a tug pulls the completed aircraft out of the hangar. Think back to those first photos from Wichita as this fuselage was being constructed, and compare them with this photo. Only a little more than 100 years ago, the Wrights took to the sky in a flimsy wood and cloth airplane. Today, we build a magnificent airplane like this in little more than a month. Wow! Upon leaving the assembly hall, the destination is the paint shop. N8301J wears it’s temporary Boeing registration. The computerized spraying units can be seen hanging from the roof of the hangar. Stay tuned for videos and more photos of our aircraft wearing its Canyon Blue livery.
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I hope you are looking forward to these packets of photos from our friends at Boeing as much as I am. Aside from the larger cabin and revised galleys, the most anticipated difference between the 737-800 and our existing airplanes might be the Sky Interior that was first developed for the 787.
If you’ve ever wondered what the backside of those wall panels in a cabin look like, here’s your chance. In the view above, we are looking forward, and the panels for the right side of the cabin are laid out in order.
Workers bring the panels for the left side into the cabin and place them along the wall. The overhead bins are already in place, and with the Sky Interior, the bins make up a large part of the ceiling. They are of a new design that will accommodate more carryon bags. (I think the overhead bins look like an upper berth in a Pullman sleeping car.) Keep in mind that all of this assembly is going on while the entire airplane inches down the assembly line at the rate of two inches per minute.
Once all the sidewall panels are onboard, workers begin to install them up and down the cabin. A temporary work light has been attached to the long ventilation panel that runs down the length of the cabin. This view, like the previous ones, is toward the front of the aircraft, and while it may be hard to see, the forward jumpseat position and the forward galley have been installed.
Above is a view of the sidewall around the emergency window exits. A good spotting feature of the 737-800 is the second window emergency exit due to its greater capacity. The insulation and soundproofing have yet to be installed in the wall between the exit windows, and it is possible to see the back of the outer skin.
In this view looking aft, most of the sidewalls have been installed. We get a good look at the work stools that the installers sit on, which are at the proper height and allow mobility around the cabin. The wiring and oxygen masks for the overhead PSUs (passenger service units) are located in the area between the top of the wall panels and the bottom of the overheads. These pictures show that assembling a multi-million dollar jetliner is a carefully choreographed procedure. Stay tuned for the next installment.
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Here's another "what if" blugoose. Herb tells me that Southwest's first choice in 1970-71 was new BAC-111s but they couldn't reach an agreement with the manufacturer. That's when they started looking at Boeing and Douglas.
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The pace of the construction of our first 737-800, N8301J, is progressing at a crisp rate. Did you know that the assembly line is always moving once the landing gear are installed? It moves about two inches a minute, but any worker who sees a problem can stop the line until the problem is corrected. In this installment, we get our first look inside the cabin. Finishing an airplane interior is a lot like finishing a house: First you complete all the framing before you complete the interior. Today’s photos from our Boeing friends look at the “kitchen” of our new “house.”
The aft galley is loaded as a unit inside the aircraft, and it is being moved down the floor toward the rear of the cabin. This shot offers a good view of the floor of the cabin before the carpeting is installed, and we also see the insulation/sound proofing on the walls. The duct running down the length of the cabin will be hidden by the ceiling.
Workers position the galley unit into its new home aft of the rear doors. It’s pretty obvious that this portion of the -800 cabin will be a lot different looking than our other aircraft, and I’m getting anxious to see the rest of the interior.
I first thought those were our new beverage carts, but they are ingenious galley movers. Blocks are placed between the galley and the top of the cart, and hydraulics lift the galley unit off of the floor. It can then be moved around using the wheels of the carts.
In our final picture for this chapter, the galley sits in its permanent location. We get a first glimpse at the various galley storage bins. It looks like the coffee maker is going to be behind the head of the worker on the left. Because the galley fills the space behind the doors, the aft lavs and the jumpseats will be located differently on this aircraft. So, there’s a first look inside the doors of our new airplane, and I will share the updates as we get them.
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In our last installment, the future N8301J was in the first position of the moving assembly line at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, assembly plant. It's really incredible to me that it's possible to assemble a bunch of metal and other materials into a machine that will not only soar safely through the heavens, but it will do it in rain, snow, and extreme heat for the next 20 years or so. In this next batch of photos from our good friends at Boeing, our first 737-800 has moved forward to the next spot on the assembly line.
The vertical stabilizer has been lowered into position and attached to the airframe. Several items of interest are in this photo: The wing jig is still attached to the fuselage. You will notice that the rudder has already been painted. Rudders are kind of like car tires, they have to be carefully balanced, and adding paint later can disrupt that balance. When you see construction photos of unpainted aircraft, their future owner is often revealed by the paint on the rudder. And, the aircraft also wears a temporary registration number (part of which is visible next to the scaffolding) that is used by Boeing until the permanent registration (N8301J) can be issued.
After the tail is installed, the next visible construction step is the horizontal stabilizers. The right stabilizer is being lowered into position by the overhead crane. Compare the configuration of the scaffolding in this position with that in the previous photo. Part of the scaffolding side has been removed to accommodate the stabilizer. In the lower left corner of the photo is a tail cone with the APU (auxiliary power unit) exhaust. Also in this view, the trademark Boeing “double bubble” fuselage design is evident. You can see a darker line running along underneath the windows from the wing root back to behind the winglet. The fuselage is actually two circular sections attached one on top of the other. The 707 was the first aircraft to utilize this design, and it made the cabin area wider than the original oval design of the Dash-80 and the KC-135. (The Dash-80 fuselage couldn't accommodate three-abreast seating.)
Boeing workers maneuver the horizontal stabilizer to its correct position on the rear fuselage. Two workers are aligning this appendage. Notice that the assembly floor of the Renton plant is spotless. The floor is so shiny that it reflects the image of the items in the factory.
At last, the stabilizer is in position, and workers are attaching it to the fuselage. It looks like it is still attached to the overhead crane—the block and tackle is just above the top of the tail in the photo.
The left horizontal stabilizer has also been attached. The temporary Boeing registration is visible in the photo, and we get a look at the ceiling of the plant. One of the overhead cranes is above the aircraft. By now, the future N8301J looks like an airplane. There are still some major steps to come, however, and among those are installing the landing gear and engines, plus hundreds of smaller items. Stay tuned…
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If you have ever made a model airplane, you know the process involves making various subassemblies, then gluing them together to make an airplane. As these photos show, the process of making a real airplane is very similar.
In our last batch of photos, the fuselage had moved inside the assembly building to the fuselage make-ready station. With this group of photos, the fuselage has been moved over to the first position on the moving assembly line. Here, the wings will be attached to the body. Above, the completed right wing (with a winglet) is being moved into position over the fuselage. The outboard flaps and flap canoes are attached, along with the leading edge. The oval panels under the wing are where the fuel tanks will go, and they will be added down the assembly line.
Next, the right wing is lined up with the opening on the fuselage. The massive wing spars will run through the fuselage opening, and the wings will attach to the spars. The aft spoilers—the upper wing panels—have been deployed. At this point, the three landing gear haven’t been attached, but some work is taking place inside the forward cargo bin and in the fuselage.
This overhead view shows that the left wing is also being attached, and N8301J is starting to look like an airplane. The nose radome is installed, and clearly visible in this view is the construction jig on top of the center part of the fuselage that is used in the wing attachment process. This angle also affords a view into some of the engineering space in the building’s mezzanine.
I like this view because we can see the entire length of the assembly line, and once N8301J reaches the far end, it will be an airplane. At the left of the photo are additional newly arrived fuselages from Wichita, and in front of our aircraft are seven more aircraft under construction. It may be hard to see, but if you look almost directly next to the left wingtip of the airplane just in front of ours, you see two vertical stabilizers. One of those will be for our aircraft at the next stop on the assembly line, and we will have photos of that in the next installment.
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The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in a red zone.
Airline employees and avgeeks immediately recognize that line from the 1980 movie Airplane. The airport scenes were shot at TWA’s Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International (LAX), and the sign above is familiar to anyone who has seen the movie. A little known fact is that when Southwest began service to LAX on my 30 th birthday, September 18, 1982 (I promise this really isn’t all about me), we operated out of the TWA terminal—the very same terminal used for Airplane. Our current facility, Terminal 1, didn’t open until 1984. These photos are the only ones I have found that show our facilities in Terminal 3.
As a bonus, not only are these photos from the “Airplane terminal,” they feature beautiful “California Girls.” (The Beach Boys grew up in nearby Hawthorne.) Through extensive, exhaustive, and highly stressful research, I can report that the women in the photo above are contestants in the Miss California USA pageant for 1983. Among the contestants for the 1983 crown was Mariska Hargitay, Miss Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, the beautiful future star of Law and Order SVU isn’t in any of these photos. However, the fact that we see contestants from the Bay Area in this photo indicates that this was a publicity event and not a travel event. The contestants are standing next to the jetbridge entrance for Gate 31, which was a gate we shared with the landlord, TWA. This area is an extension off the main building.
Southwest had a checkin podium for Gate 31 located in the main part of the concourse. Unfortunately, the destination for the flight is blocked from our view. The little girl is staring at the photographer, but most seem drawn to something outside of the picture frame.
Possibly, they are looking at the contestants posing for the video camera. Here’s another clue that this is a photo shoot and not a travel event. Take a look at the size of those bags. Those bags would never fit in a 1983 overhead bin. I apologize that some of the photos are out of focus, which may explain why they haven’t been seen before, but I thought the rarity of the subject matter overrides the picture quality.
Here we get a good view of an expanse of the Terminal 3 concourse. Who knows, the Zucker brothers could have placed their Airplane cameras in this very spot? At LAX, each concourse was called a satellite, which reflects the fact that space really was the next frontier when the terminal complex opened in 1961. I can remember spending a 1962 Sunday afternoon in this very satellite while my father counted TWA boardings to Chicago for his employer, Continental. While Dad was involved with overt intelligence gathering, I wandered over to a gate where one of the last TWA Constellations to serve LAX was parked. The fact that it was departing to Albuquerque and my former home, Amarillo, only added to the interest.
Above, we see the suitcases being set up for the shoot. Thanks to my extensive research, these two contestants from the San Diego area were two of the five finalists in the pageant. Miss San Diego County on the left is Sharon Jones, and Miss Greater San Diego is Lisa Longacre. (The pageant was won by Miss Westwood, Julie Hayek, who went on to win Miss USA. She later had roles in Dallas, Twin Peaks, and As the World Turns.) This photo gives us another view of the Terminal 3 satellite, and it looks pretty much the way it did when it opened. Even today, this satellite is probably the closest to “as built” of any of the 1961 facilities at LAX. Of course, TWA disappeared over a decade ago, and JetBlue, Virgin Australia, and Virgin America are the main occupants in the terminal at present. (I later found out that AirTran still operates out of Terminal 3.) However, thanks to Airplane, is this the most famous airline terminal in the country?
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In our last installment, the fuselage of our first 737-800 was being loaded on a rail car for the journey from Wichita to the Boeing assembly plant in Renton, Washington. Thanks to these great photos from our friends at Boeing, we can check in on the progress of what will become N8301J. Fellow avgeeks will note that the -800s carry a four-digit N-number, which is a departure from our traditional numbering process.
In the photo above, the fuselage has entered the plant via the overhead cranes. Boeing operates two 737 assembly lines in tandem, and the second assembly hall can be seen behind the aircraft. The mezzanine area between the two halls contains meeting areas, offices, and breakrooms, one of which can be seen under the nose of the fuselage.
N8301J will join two other fuselages in the initial assembly position. The fenced area contains parts that will be needed for this step in the assembly process. If you look closely, you can see that the nose radome has been attached to the fuselage in the center, as have the overwing emergency exit windows.
In the photo above, N8301J is settling down into the assembly bay, which will be its home for the next couple of days. The arched ladder in front of the airplane moves on a track that allows workers access to the top of the fuselage. You can see the ladder at the back of the fuselage at the top of the photo. Also note that the dorsal fins have been attached to the other two airframes. Additional parts are stored on the floor level, underneath the assembly platforms. Several of the tricycles workers use to move around the plant are parked at the foot of the stairs, and if you look closely, you can see the winglet of a Norwegian Airlines aircraft at the lower right of the photo. Once the initial fuselage work is finished, it will be lifted over to the left out of camera range where the wings and landing gear are installed. Then it joins the moving assembly line where the tail flying surfaces, engines, and interior parts like galleys and lavatories are installed, and it will emerge out the other end of the building as an aircraft instead of a tube of metal.
Stay tuned for progress reports.
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Our new Evolve interior with its environmentally friendly materials and Customer-friendly personal space was set to make its debut this week. To mark the occasion, I thought it might be interesting to go back through the years and look at our various aircraft interiors.
The photo above represents one of our earliest interiors, and the Flight Attendant is one of our Originals, Sandra Force. I like to call this a “707 interior” because it is very similar to the ones on Boeing’s 707s that entered service in 1958 and 1959. The one big difference between those 707s and early 737s was that the 707 had big ceiling light fixtures, not unlike today's Sky Interiors, and the 737 just used indirect lighting. There are no overhead bins, just an open rack that was limited to coats, hats, pillows, and blankets. The signature Boeing PSUs (Passenger Service Units) hang underneath the shelves. The row number was displayed in the square frame on the aisle-side of the unit. The grill on the PSU contains a speaker for the PA system, and next to it are the “No Smoking” and “Fasten Seat Belts” lights. Reading lights and air vents are on the bottom of the units, and the emergency oxygen masks would drop out the door on the center bottom.
Here’s a color view of that same interior, and it shows off the colors of the cloth seat coverings. The “No Smoking” placards on the front of the PSUs help divide the cabin into smoking (aft) and non-smoking (forward) sections. The low bulkheads are in front of the overwing lounge section (a feature on Southwest aircraft until the 737-700 was introduced), and the cleaning crew is replacing paper headrests.
For the next photo, we look at a variation—the “widebody” look. When the 747 was introduced, it was one of the first aircraft to have an enclosed overhead. Boeing developed a similar overhead for the 707, 727, and 737. The enclosed overhead bins folded into the side of the ceiling, and the largest item they could contain was a briefcase or large purse. The PSUs were incorporated flush with the bottom of the overhead bins.
The next big step in cabin evolution was enclosed overhead bins that could accommodate carryon bags. This photo dates from the early 80s, and the enclosed bins are now large enough to contain another 80s invention, the roller bag. We are looking at the lounge seating at the front of the aircraft. In this photo and the previous one, we can see that the bulkhead space was utilized for advertising. In all of these early photos, the seating has remained pretty much the same with cloth covers and paper headrests. That would change with our next interior design.
When Southwest introduced the 737-300 in December 1984, it debuted the basic interior that would serve us up into the early “aught” years. This interior featured cloth backs and bottoms with permanent leather headrests replacing the paper ones. The lounge areas were set off with leather bulkheads. When Southwest introduced the 737-700 in January 1998, new federal safety regulations doomed the lounge areas. No rear-facing seats could meet this new safety requirement, and the -700s were delivered with all forward facing seating. Lounges in the -300s and -500s were phased out, and only the -200 retained lounges until they were retired at the start of 2005.
The new Canyon Blue livery debuted at the start of our 30 th year in early 2001, and we introduced matching all-leather interiors with complimentary colors. This interior has “evolved” into our new Evolve interiors which will carry us forward for the upcoming years. Besides eco-friendly fabric, the seats feature lower profiles, new tray tables, and redesigned seat back pockets. The Evolve interior's carpets are of a new design that utilizes sustainable materials. The carpet is laid in squares which can be replaced without having to replace long rolls of carpeting.
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Normally, I write about the past, but this post is about history in the making. As a certified “av geek,” one of the things that fascinates me about airplane construction is how a bunch of metal comes together to form an airliner. Dara Schmidt, our Boeing Representative, has been supplying us “av geek caviar” with a series of photos showing our first 737-800 under construction. The 737 fuselages are assembled at Spirit Aerospace in Wichita (a future Southwest city). In the manufacturing process, down is sometimes up, and above is the aft cargo bin in the lower fuselage. Up is really up in the photo above. This is Section 44 with the overwing exit openings. Unlike the -700, the -800 has two overwing exits. We can also see the openings for the massive wing spars. Another fuselage section is the section at the very back of the airplane. We get a good idea of what an aircraft’s framework looks like under the skin. Modern airplanes are built with both lightness and strength in mind. Like a model airplane, all these sub assemblies are then attached to each other to make the fuselage. This view shows the fuselage with the aft module attached. From the front, we see the units that are used to fasten the sections together. The fuselage is essentially an empty shell at this point. On January 18, the entire unit was placed on a railcar. The BNSF Railway will then take the completed fuselage shell to Boeing’s assembly plant at Renton, Washington. There, the wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, engines, and landing gear will be attached, and the wiring, electronics, and cabin items installed. Stay tuned for more updates on the birth of our first 737-800.
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Thirty years ago, Southwest Airlines followed Horace Greely’s advice of “Go west, young man,” when we opened San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas on January 31, 1982. I had hoped to include some early photos from San Diego this week, but the ones I thought I had found were for Phoenix. I will keep looking, but in the meantime, we have some interesting photos from our early days in the desert.
Let’s start in Vegas Baby! The station opened with 29 Employees and 29 flights serving nine cities. The photo above shows the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our first flight. On the left is Ticket Agent Donna Grear, then Thomas Hoff, who was our Vice President Facilities and Properties. Next to him is Manuel Cortez, Chairman of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, then Director of Aviation John Solomon, Commissioner Hank Pettiti, and Station Manager Bruce Bennett. The LUVLines caption didn’t identify the other people. Today of course, Las Vegas is one of our largest operations.
And, so is Phoenix. We began at the original terminal (above and at top). By the time we began in Phoenix, Terminal Two and Terminal Three had opened, so the original terminal was called Terminal One. Noted Phoenix aviation photographer Bob Shane shot these photos for us over a Thanksgiving Holiday in the late 1980s. He rented a helicopter and had all the out-of-service aircraft for the holiday parked in between the aircraft on the gates. In both pictures, you can see the original building and the concourse with jetbridges that Southwest had built. There are a total of 15 Southwest aircraft at the gates. To put that in perspective, at yearend 1987, we had only 74 aircraft and 85 at the end of 1988.
Southwest was also busy on the inside of Terminal One. These negatives had been filed under San Diego, but thanks to some detective work by our folks in San Diego and Ontario, we were able to narrow it down to Phoenix, where longtime Phoenix Station Administrator Bert Morris fills in the details. The ticket counter was moved and enlarged in 1987 or 1988, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the new space. Jim Wimberly who was at the time our Vice President of Ground Operations acts as the emcee.
Our Customer Service Agents were ready for their close-ups. Bert identifies these Employees as (from left to right) Marville Garcia, Ellen MacMillan, Isabel Dukes, and Kay Carpenter.
Above is a wider view of the counter, and you will notice that we are still using cash registers to dispense tickets. Our “Point of Sale” (POS) ticketing system would send the cash registers to the showers, but they didn’t come online for all of our stations until 1990.
The celebration wasn’t complete without a band, and the guy on keyboards looks a little bit like Paul McCartney. Our facilities in Phoenix have come a long way since these photos were made, but you will still see smiling faces.
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Three may just be the most important number in our society. We see it everywhere. Each side of the ancient pyramids forms a triangle. It’s in our fairy tales with the three little pigs, the three bears, and Aladdin’s three wishes. How many jokes have you heard that start with a variation of a "blonde, a brunette, and a redhead,” an "Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman, or some other disparate trio?” Baseball has three strikes, three outs, and nine innings (3x3). The Holy Trinity, three wise men, and the three men on crosses are foundations of Christianity. Three also has been very important to Southwest Airlines. We started with three airplanes flying to three cities. The original “Texas Triangle” is part of the foundation of our Culture, part of our corporate “theology” if you will. After all, Cofounders Herb Kelleher and Rollin King sketched out the triangle over drinks at San Antonio’s St. Anthony Club as they decided to begin Southwest.
We didn’t close the bottom leg of that Texas Triangle until November 14, 1971, five months after our first flight. Incidentally, that is the same date we moved some of our Houston flights from Intercontinental to a reopened Houston Hobby. Eva and Dave Olian sent us this photo of that first San Antonio to Houston flight back in 1971. They had won their tickets on the inaugural flight through a contest. If, like me, you survived the 1970s, you will recognize the fashions Eva and Dave are wearing—check out those collars. The photo represents our first expansion step. (Airplane geeks will appreciate the close up of the mechanism of the air stairs.)
Some folks think the idea of Southwest’s original triangle is revisionist public relations spin at work to make our history seem more heroic, or that it is part of a myth-building exercise to glorify our early days. While we don’t have THE napkin upon which Herb and Rollin sketched the first triangle, we do have the the photo above that shows Harold Reilly (left) conferring with Don Ogden, our First Vice President of Flight Operations. Behind them is a very early and very literal framed representation of the Texas Triangle over a roadmap of Texas. (It’s also a clear reminder that our primary competition was the automobile.)
The close-up above of the triangle shows San Antonio, with the leg running north to Dallas, and the leg east to Houston. These two photos were taken at the old Headquarters building between 1972 and early 1974. They offer proof that clearly shows the concept of the triangle has been with us for a very long time.
The idea of three plays an important role throughout Southwest’s history. Last week, we looked at some color photos of our late-1970s ticket counters. This view of the counter at Houston Hobby mirrors the décor of our other ticket counters at the time, and it features three stylized hearts and airplanes that are representative of our original cities and three original aircraft.
Later, our longtime logo featured a three-bar design, and about 1982 or 1983, it replaced the stylized hearts at Love Field (above) and our other facilities like the Skycap podium at the very top. Even though today we have a lot more than three airplanes and three cities, Southwest’s Culture still comes in threes. We live the Southwest Way with a Warrior Spirit, a Fun-LUVing Attitude, and a Servant’s Heart. And, we have kept three of our aircraft painted in our original colors (below at Chicago Midway, courtesy of Paul Thompson). The power of three is what connects us with those wild and wooly early days.
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Even in the late 1970s, color photos were somewhat of a rarity, especially in media usage. Until USA Today came along, most newspapers used black and white photos exclusively. That also held true for many magazines because the color printing process was so expensive. That’s why a big portion of the photos in our archives from our first ten or so years are in black and white. However, we do have some color slides from that period, and I found five of them that illustrate some of our ticket counters. Many thanks to Original Employee Dan Johnson in Dispatch for helping me identify the photos through his large network of friends.
Almost everyone that we asked told us that the photo above is Harlingen. Why? Because they said that Harlingen had an “ugly” ticket counter. I have to admit that this looks like a scene shot in a 1960s wood-paneled basement. The city logos were a feature of our ticket counters during the mid-70s. We began service to Harlingen on February 11, 1975, so it would be after that date.
For our next photo, we move a few hundred miles north to Houston Hobby. In my September 23, 2011 Flashback Fridays post, I have a black and white photo of our counter in the main terminal at Hobby. We moved from the old international arrival building into the main terminal on December 8, 1974, so the photo dates after that. Since it has the 1970s “modern” graphics that replaced the city logos, we can narrow it down to no earlier than 1978 or 1979. This design features three stylized hearts behind the ticket counter in the colors on our aircraft and three stylized airplanes on the wall beyond and at the top of the flight schedule board. It looks like the Braniff counter at the far right is shut down.
Southwest began service to Austin’s old Robert Mueller Airport on September 5, 1977, and above, we see the view from behind our ticket counter. Dan’s posse of sleuths was able to identify three of the four Austin Employees, with a tentative identification of the fourth. The earliest date that this photo could have been taken is 1979, since that is the year Delta (upper left of photo under the Continental sign) began serving Austin and no later than 1981 due to the uniforms. The side wall of the ticket counter reflects the same theme as the earlier Houston photo.
The photo of the Dallas Ticket Counter above was taken at about the same time as the Harlingen photo because it has the city logo design. Narrowing the date even more, the flight board only lists service to Houston, San Antonio, and Harlingen (Rio Grande Valley), so it would have been taken between February 11, 1975, and March 1, 1977, when we added Corpus Christi to our map. This counter was located in the Baggage Claim wing of Love Field, and the walkway to the escalator leading to the upper level and the West Concourse is just beyond the edge of the counter.
Finally, this might be the best of the batch. The location was unmarked, but through a lot of detective work, we have been able to identify this as our short-lived Beaumont/Port Arthur Station. We opened the city with five flights, all to Dallas, and the departure times on the flight board exactly match our first schedule to this Southeast Texas city. The date is probably close to the first flight date of May 1, 1979. Beaumont/Port Arthur closed a little more than a year later on September 15, 1980, but by that time, the schedule had been reduced to four flights. I’m guessing that Employees are behind the ticket counter, and these ladies would have been Ticket Agents (the title back then), rather than Flight Attendants because they aren’t wearing wings. Even though our Beaumont Station is somewhat of a historical footnote in our history, the big smiles of these Employees are an important part of our Culture.
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In last Friday's Flashback post, I shared a photo of Rollin King that was taken in the cockpit during a flight of Boeing’s 737 demonstrator, N737Q. I shared my post with the good folks at Boeing, and their Corporate Historian, Michael Lombardi, did some digging through their files. He found the original Boeing negative and sent this cleaned up digital version that clearly shows the registration placard. The information he sent along with the photo is quite simply amazing: “I was able to find the original negative for that photo in one of the batches from the 737s domestic tour in 1968. The photo was taken while the prototype 737 visited Dallas and San Antonio on June 17, 1968.”
The photo was taken three years and one day before our official flight and about 15 months after Air Southwest was incorporated. Although it was more of a blind date than a longterm commitment at that point, it still means that our relationship with Boeing began 43½ years ago almost at the birth of the 737 program. (The first 737-100 wasn’t delivered to Lufthansa until December 1967.) I know it may sound like a small discovery, but I find it exciting and wanted to share with you all.
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The most exciting part about my job is opening a drawer or a file and finding gems like the ones I am sharing today. Over the Holiday break, I found some interesting photos of our early years, and many of them go back to a time before we had even flown our first flight.
We start with what could be a potentially important historic photo. Rollin King, who along with Herb Kelleher founded Southwest, used to fly as one of our Pilots. I have seen this photo a few times before, and I always thought it shows Rollin in one of our cockpits—in spite of the fact he was wearing a business suit. However, once we scanned the photo and I looked at it with a high degree of enlargement, it may, in fact, show the birth of Southwest’s relationship with Boeing.
When I enlarged the photo, I discovered that this isn’t a Southwest airplane. I could just make out the registration placard on the control panel (above), and this is N737Q, a 737-222, which means it was built to United’s standards. (A later 737 temporarily wore the same registration in 1976.) However, United never operated it; instead, it served as a Boeing demonstrator from 1968 to 1974. Even narrowing down the date more, my research sources show that Boeing reregistered the aircraft from N737Q to N1359B in July 1970. That would mean the photo was taken before July 1970. Is this the flight (or one of a series of flights) in which Southwest decided to try and buy the 737 for its initial operations? If it is, this is a landmark photo defining the beginning of the relationship between Southwest and Boeing.
This glorious color photograph appears to have been shot in the days before June 18, 1971, because our entire fleet is at the old hangar on the north side of Love Field. The “Hostesses” in their hot pants (and one mini skirt) are obviously the “stars” of this photo, but if you look beyond them (which might be difficult to do), there is much to see. Look at the sky. You can almost feel that steamy June humidity. Here are our first three aircraft, and they carry the original livery with the word “AIRLINES” on the tail. (For those of you keeping score, N20SW, is the closest.) These titles began to disappear with the September 1971 delivery of our fourth aircraft, N23SW, which arrived, sans the two-word title. Speaking of the livery, anyone who has been around a 737-200 will know that the back part of the fuselage gets soiled quickly by the thrust reversers, and this paint is pristine and not too many days removed from the paint shop.
The next picture is less glamorous, but it comes from the same period and the same location—only this time, we have just one airplane at the hangar. Rollin King (center) is standing with our first President, Lamar Muse, on the right. I’m not sure of the identity of the man in the double-breasted sports coat. Our files have several similar photos from this timeframe with various Employees posing with other people around our aircraft. During the weeks before the first flight, training flights were conducted around Texas. In fact, on June 16, 1971, one of those training flights diverted to Austin to drop Herb Kelleher off so he could appear before the Texas Supreme Court in order to fight a last-minute restraining order that Braniff and Texas International had achieved. Herb was successful in getting the order lifted the next day, which allowed Southwest to begin service on June 18, 1971.
And finally, we have this evocative photo that appears to be taken just after sunrise, most likely in San Antonio. The date is between late 1971 (because the “AIRLINES” title has been removed from N21SW) and September 24, 1974 (when the Flight Attendant uniforms changed). The DC-3 behind the 737 is probably an ex-Texas International aircraft because it has the wheel-well doors that were added to the Texas International airplanes. I think these “slice of life” photos from this period just might be my favorites. The last thing on the minds of the five Crewmembers is that they are engaged in a heroic effort building an airline legend. They are just going off to work like millions of other Americans do every day. The First Officer (on the right) carries a cup with his morning coffee. The Captain and the Flight Attendant on the left chat as they head out to the aircraft. It was probably a cool morning, because one of the Flight Attendants (who I think is C.J. Bostic, who wore a similar hair style in other photos) is wearing a coat or a sweater. To me, this photo shows us that Southwest’s survival and ultimate success weren’t secured by Employees performing epic deeds (although that did happen often); It was made possible by coming to work with a smile, a sense of humor, and working hard on a daily basis.
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Blame (or credit) this post on Bill Murray and Scrooged. I was looking for some photos that I might use for a Holiday issue of Flashback Fridays, and I thought of his modern version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Most traditional versions of that work are too scary to parody, especially with their versions of the Ghost of Christmas Future. Well, the Mr. Magoo version isn’t very scary, but it is ridiculous. (It does have an aviation tie-in though. Jim Backus who did Mr. Magoo’s voice also did the voice of Wally Bird, Western Airlines' advertising icon, who proclaimed the carrier to be “The only way to fly,” while sipping champagne and resting against the vertical stabilizer of an aircraft in flight.)
So, Mr. Murray and the cast of Scrooged are my inspiration, and my “Ghosts” are Boeing 737s. Murray’s character, Frank Cross, meets the Ghost of Christmas Past in the form of a New York City cabbie, and one of their destinations is the year 1971. Unlike Cross's finding, 1971 was a very good year at Southwest Airlines. For all of you who have been paying attention this year, you know that 1971 was when Southwest began. The photo above isn’t from that year, but instead, it comes ten years later in 1981. The aircraft is a 737-200 we leased from Trans European Airways, and Larry Worley and Jimmy Moore in our Maintenance Department created a Rudolph design for the nose radome. We used this airplane, nicknamed "Rudolph One," to fly Santa around our system and raise money for the Salvation Army by selling calendars.
My Ghost of Christmas Present doesn’t have Carol Kane slugging everyone, nor will it have a sad story. Quite simply, the Holidays are about families joining together, and we did that in a big way with the great folks at AirTran. . Southwest joining with AirTran is our version of Frank (finally) getting back together with Claire (Karen Allen). The big difference is that we didn't need scary ghosts to motivate us.
And finally, our Ghost of Christmas Future isn’t a giant monster with a television for a face. Our future Ghost visited us last week, and unlike the one in Dickens or Scrooged, he brings us news that is very, very good. In the future, our new 737 MAXs will be taking our Customers high over the river and above the woods to Grandma’s house. So there you have our version of A Christmas Carol, and we didn’t have to super glue tiny antlers on a mouse or hold a television studio hostage at gunpoint during a live performance. Scrooged ends with the cast signing the classic "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," and we hope that we can put of lot of LUV into your travel plans for the next year and beyond.
If you will indulge me, I'd like to add a personal note. Thanks to all of you for making this such a wonderful year for Flashback Fridays whether you read the posts through Nuts About Southwest, RSS syndication, or on our Employee blog, SWALife. Your support means the world to me. For my Fellow Employees, thanks for creating such a rich, inspirational, and interesting history, these are the stories you wrote (and continue to write) with your hard work, sweat, and care for our Customers and each other. I wish all of you the best this Holiday Season, and I can’t wait to share more of our history with you next year.
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I recently found a large batch of black and white negatives primarily from the year 1981. These 30-year-old photos contain some interesting views of key Southwest events and of the day-to-day routine of three decades ago. The next few Flashback Friday installments, including next week’s Holiday edition will come from this era.
But first, we look at the Albuquerque Station’s celebration of their one-year anniversary, April 5, 1981. An event like this almost always requires a decorated cake, and this one (above) features a representation of a Southwest 737-200. Since the cake is flanked by two ice chests, I think we can conclude that soft drinks were probably provided, plus lots of hot coffee, as we will see later.
Although there is a jetbridge outside the gate window above, Passengers boarded and deplaned at ground level via stairs at our gate. The Gate Agent is wearing a special Anniversary T-shirt over her uniform blouse. (It says, “Enjoy A Love A Fare.”) Paper streamers run the length of the podium.
The photo above was taken in the morning according to this departure sign in the gate area. Look at the iron railing behind the sign and at the wall-hanging above the sign, and you will see the Zia symbol, which is featured on the New Mexico state flag. The big white box on top of the counter to the right of the sign is the final version of NCR’s “Love Machines” that dispensed cash register receipt tickets. One of these machines is on display in the Southwest exhibit at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, here in Dallas. As to Flight #53, it offered a somewhat roundabout routing to Harlingen (Rio Grande Valley), via El Paso, Dallas, and Houston Hobby. Given the flight's final destination, it's somewhat ironic that the Rio Grande river runs a mile or so from the Albuquerque Airport, and the flight will follow the river to El Paso. Today, Albuquerque still has a direct flight (#218) to Harlingen, but it makes only one stop at Hobby.
Finally, we close with one of those “slice of life” photos that I really enjoy from our archives. Here we see Passengers lined up to board a different flight at the old Gate 2A. This photo was made in the afternoon—I can just make out a “4” in the departure time on the flight board in the background, and I see a “9” in the flight number. This might have been Flight #9 (or possibly Flight #“90-something”), and it is going nonstop to Dallas—I can’t make out the second stop. The second man in from the left is reading his newspaper. My dad had a plaid suit similar to the one the man four people in from the left is wearing. Thankfully, that pattern and double-knits failed to survive the decade. Only two of the people in the line (who are all males) fail to have either a suit or sports coat. One of them is the man in front of the podium who is wearing a jacket, and the other is the man at the coffee urn who appears to have a leather (or leather-like) coat. He will have to put out his smoke before going outside. Since April 5 in 1981 was a Sunday, I think the anniversary was celebrated and these photos were taken the next day based on the business attire and the lack of women and families.
Today, Albuquerque has 52 daily flights currently serving Baltimore/Washington, Chicago Midway, Dallas Love, Denver, El Paso, Houston Hobby, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, and Tucson. Next week, we will look at the ghost of Southwest Christmases past.
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