The World’s Best Selling Commercial Aircraft

The Cessna 172 is the world’s most produced aircraft. However, Boeing takes the best selling commercial aircraft crown with the Boeing 737. Simple Flying decided to take a look at how.

Boeing 737 Best Selling Aircraft
The aircraft took its first flight in April 1967. Photo: Boeing

The majority of Boeing 737 sales have been aircraft other than the 737 MAX. With this in mind, this article will not focus on the current grounding of the type. The story of the Boeing 737 actually starts over 50 years ago in the 1960s. The aircraft’s preliminary design work began in 1964 on May 11th. Since then, the aircraft has gone on to sell in excess of 15,000 units.

Where did the 737 come from?

The Boeing 737 was originally designed in the 1960s. The aircraft was envisioned to be a two engined aircraft, complimenting the Boeing 707 and 727. Designs of the aircraft were started in 1964. Three years later in 1967, the 737 took its first flight on April 6th.

The first aircraft was registered as N73700 and was transferred to NASA in 1973. It now rests at Boeing Field. Lufthansa was the launch customer for the aircraft type, receiving the first production model in 1968.

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15,161 units sold

According to records from Boeing, the company has sold 15,161 Boeing 737 aircraft. Of this number, 10,550 have so far been delivered. As such, 4,611 aircraft are still to be delivered by Boeing. The majority of outstanding deliveries are for the Boeing 737 MAX.

Boeing 737 Best Selling Aircraft
The 10,000th 737 delivery was celebrated with a Guinness world record. Photo: Boeing

Indeed, the 10,000th Boeing 737 was delivered just last year on March 13th, 2018. The aircraft was a 737 MAX 8 which was delivered to Southwest Airlines. The momentous occasion was marked by the Guinness Book Of World Records who declared the 737 the “Most produced commercial jet aircraft model”.

An airline favourite

The Boeing 737 is one of the favourite aircraft for low-cost airlines. Indeed, Southwest Airlines has 753 active aircraft (including the MAX). Ryanair is also a huge fan of the 737. The European LCC currently exclusively operates the type with 425 currently in the fleet.

However, the aircraft is not exclusively utilised by low-cost carriers. We recently saw IAG place a letter of intent for 200 of the 737 MAX at the Paris Air Show. Meanwhile, each of the big three United States carriers operate sizeable 737 fleets.

Boeing 737 Best Selling Aircraft
The aircraft has become a firm favourite for many airline fleets. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

The future

Boeing is wrapping up production of non-MAX 737s, with only 61 orders left unfilled. The remaining 4,550 orders are for the 737 MAX. As everybody is well aware, the Boeing 737 MAX is currently affected by a worldwide flight ban. As such, Boeing is being forced to store the aircraft in their employee car park as they are running out of room.

Beyond the 737 MAX program, it is unclear what the future holds for the Boeing 737. While the manufacturer could keep adapting the design, I feel it is more likely that a new aircraft will replace it. However, this is speculation, and nobody knows how the MAX program will pan out. We do, however, know that the 737 will likely be around for many more years, as some are already being converted into freighters.

What do you think of the 737’s impressive sales? Let us know in the comments!

7 comments
    1. Well, if they do that, it won’t sell…because the old 737NG has approx. 15% more fuel burn than the Airbus A320/A321 neo.

  1. How many “bandaids” can you keep putting on a 50 year old design before biting the bullet and starting afresh? The 737 MAX is almost unrecognisable from the 100 series in the photo and would look dramatically more different if Boeing had opted to further modernise it with the 757 nose & cockpit. I don’t feel the MAX will fully recover in the eyes of the general public, much like the DC-10 before it, and the Comet before that.

    Ona separate issue, to save time and cost, why doesn’t Boeing reintroduce the 767-200 with a new composite wing & tail, new generation engines (and maybe add the Dreamliner nose) then they have an affordable NMA (or 797) which would be far more affordable for airlines and more pleasant for passengers than the single aisle A321XLR which is currently cleaning up. This size aircraft is a limited market and probably can’t justify a totally new model anyway.

  2. I think the MAX will be the swan song of the 737. Boeing will build a replacement and it may be done in the shaddow of the 787′ s new technology, and even may still be called 737, but it will be a completely new aircraft. I say they may call it 737-G2. As in 737 Gen. 2 aircraft

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