Last week we wrote about All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) retiring its final Boeing 737-500 on June 14th. For better or for worse, that day has come, and the Japanese airline said goodbye to the last of its -500s yesterday. The fully booked flight departed from Fukuoka, arriving at Tokyo Haneda under wet weather conditions but greeted by a group of ‘adoring fans.’
Goodbye, “Super Dolphin”
The final Boeing 737-500 to leave the fleet was registered as JA306K. The aircraft and the 737-500s that once flew alongside it have been serving ANA’s regional subsidiary, ANA Wings.
JA306K was delivered to Air Nippon in 1999, a short-haul subsidiary of ANA, which was eventually merged into the main ANA brand. The aircraft was part of the ANA mainline fleet from 2003 until 2005, at which point moved to Air Next, an ANA owned low-cost carrier. In total, the aircraft had over 49,590 hours of flight time and 47,765 pressurization cycles.
The nickname of this particular aircraft is “Super Dolphin,” because some say it resembles the cetacean in spirit. According to the Japanese website Aviation Wire, the plane had a quick turn and a sense of speed, and it is energetic and friendly – characteristics shared by dolphins. And in case you forget the nickname of this aircraft, there are cartoon dolphins painted on the engine cowlings to serve as a reminder.
1995年7月の就航開始から25年、きょう6月14日、最後のJA306Kが福岡発羽田行き254便で最終運航を完遂したANA 737-500。羽田空港到着時の出迎えシーンより。 pic.twitter.com/dvPeHrFxGS
— 月刊エアライン編集部 (@ikarosairline) June 14, 2020
Interestingly, while people in some parts of the world might refer to the -500’s CFM56-3 engines as “hamster pouches,” the Japanese have given it their own analogy, calling it “rice ball type.”
The aircraft took off from Fukuoka as flight NH254 bound for Tokyo Haneda. According to Aviation Wire, this popular service would typically be operated by a Boeing 777. However, due to COVID-19 and the drop in air travel, the 737-500 was able to perform the trip.
At Fukuoka Airport, a ceremony was held at the boarding gate with the aircraft’s captain saying a few words:
“I can take off and land on a short runway, so I could go to various places from Wakkanai in Hokkaido to Ishigaki in Okinawa in the south.” – Captain Seiji Oyama via Aviation Wire
Taking off at 13:26, the fully booked flight landed at Tokyo Haneda Airport and parked at its assigned stand at 15:03 local time. The total flight time was just under 90 minutes.
What will replace the 737-500?
Now that ANA Wings has said goodbye to its final Boeing 737-500, it is left with a fleet Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s. According to AirFleets, the regional airline has 24 in its fleet, with six more on order. In a few years, there will be an exciting addition joining ANA Wings. The airline has ordered the Mitsubishi Spacejet, also known as the MRJ90. It was expecting to take delivery of these jets by March 2021. However, with additional program delays, this date may be pushed back further.
Have you ever flown on a Boeing 737-500? How does the experience compare to other narrowbodies? Let us know in the comments.