When you think of the Boeing 737, you don’t actually realize that you might be thinking of a product line spanning 22 different varients across more than forty years. What are all these different variants and how do they fit into the Boeing family?
The place to begin is the original generation of the Boeing aircraft, starting with the first one, the Boeing 737-100.
The first generation
The Boeing 737-100 first flew April 9, 1967, and would start operating for Lufthansa in 1968. It could carry 85 passengers in two classes (12 in first and 73 in economy). It could fly 1,540 nautical miles (2,850 km).
This was followed by the bigger Boeing 737-200 later that year that which was built for airlines like United, who configured the larger aircraft with 102 seats. These included 14 first-class seats with a seat pitch of 38″ and 88 in economy with 34″ inches of pitch. This bigger aircraft had bigger fuel tanks and could fly 2,600 nautical miles (4,800 km).
There were another two versions of the original Boeing 737; the 737-200C and 737-T43A. The former was a ‘convertible version’ that had a cargo door behind the main cockpit and could transport cargo as well as passengers. The latter was a military version. Boeing also offered a gravel kit for the aircraft, allowing it to land at airports that did not even have a concrete runway.
For all other aircraft comparisons from here, the passenger numbers are for two classes onboard, instead of total seating capacity (all economy or exit limits).
The second generation
Moving on from the first generation was the Boeing 737-300, -400 and -500. These were known as the Boeing 737 Classic (when the third generation launched, but we will get to that soon). Each aircraft had the following specs:
- Boeing 737-300 – 126 passengers to a range of 2,060 nautical miles
- Boeing 737-400 – 147 passengers to a range of 2,375 nautical miles
- Boeing 737-500 – 110 passengers to a range of around 2100 nautical miles
The Boeing 737-300 first flew on February 24, 1984. Because of how big the new engines were and how close the aircraft ran to the ground, Boeing decided to flatten the bottom of the engine in a ‘hamster pouch’ design. Several design ideas from the development of the Boeing 757 were incorporated, updating the cabin interior to a common design we see today.
The third generation
This generation of Boeing 737 aircraft is likely to be known to readers, as its the most popular and is widely in use around the world today.
There are six versions, four original aircraft, and two ‘extended-range’ variants. They are:
- Boeing 737-600 – 108 passengers to a range of 3,235 nautical miles (5,991 km).
- Boeing 737-700 – 128 passengers to a range of 3,010 nautical miles (5,570 km).
- Boeing 737-800 – The most famous and widely sold Boeing 737. It can carry 160 passengers to a range of 2,935 nautical miles (5,436 km)
- Boeing 737-900 – 177 passengers to a range of 2,950 nautical miles (5,460 km).
- Boeing 737-700ER – This aircraft had a range extension to 5,775 nautical miles (10,695 km). It had the same passenger capacity.
- Boeing 737-900ER – This aircraft had a range extension to 3,850 nautical miles (7,130 km). It had the same passenger capacity.
The third generation of the Boeing 737 was built in response to the rising tide of Airbus A320 aircraft, which had quickly come to be seen as a great alternative to the Boeing design. Boeing worked with major airline customers, like Southwest and United, to overhaul the original Boeing 737 classic design (the previous generation).
There were also three military versions, the Boeing 737 AEW&C, C-40 Clipper and the P-8 Poseidon. There was also a cargo conversion of the Boeing 737-800.
The fourth generation
The fourth generation is the most infamous of the Boeing line, as the ‘MAX’ series is still currently grounded. There are four versions of the Boeing 737 MAX:
- Boeing 737 MAX 7 – 153 passengers in two classes to a range of 3,850 nautical miles / 7,130 km.
- Boeing 737 MAX 8 – Successor to the Boeing 737-800. 178 passengers to a range of 3,550 nautical miles / 6,570 km.
- Boeing 737 MAX 9 – 193 passengers in two classes to a range of 3,550 nautical miles / 6,570 km.
- Boeing 737 MAX 10 – The biggest Boeing 737 ever built, it can carry 204 passengers in two classes to a range of 3,300 nautical miles / 6,110 km.
There is also a special version of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 that can carry 200 passengers, and known as the Boeing 737 MAX 200. We have also skipped over a few special variants built for the military and the entire Boeing 737 BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) line.
What do you think? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.