Canada Sends 36 Year Old Boeing 737 To Rescue Citizens From Morocco

Earlier today, a Boeing 737-200 took off from Shannon on route to Casablanca in Morocco. The Nolinor Aviation operated aircraft, at more than 36 years of age, was taking the final hop of a three-stop itinerary from its home in Montreal, in order to rescue Canadians unable to get home.

Nolinor loves the 737-200 for its gravel landing abilities. Photo: Nolinor

A rare and unusual visitor

Today saw the arrival of a very rare and unusual visitor to European airspace. A Boeing 737-200, operated by Nolinor Aviation, took off this morning from Shannon (SNN) in Ireland, heading to Casablanca (CMN) in Morocco. The reason? To rescue stranded Canadians.

But this was only the final leg of something of an epic journey for the little -200, a journey which started in the early hours of Thursday morning. The aircraft was originally scheduled to take off from Montreal at 04:00 on Thursday morning, although for one reason and another it didn’t get on its way until 09:03 that day.


From Montreal, it traveled to Goose Bay, landing an hour and a half later. Having taken on enough fuel for the transatlantic hop, it then headed over to Reykjavik in Iceland, arriving at 18:22.

Goose Bay to Iceland
From Goose Bay, it headed to Iceland for a fuel stop before continuing on. Photo: FlightRadar24

After a short time on the ground, presumably for yet more fuel, the 737 headed from Iceland to Shannon in Ireland. Finally, after an overnight stop in the Emerald Isle, it set off this morning at 07:47 for the final leg of its journey. It touched down in Casablanca at 11:00

It arrived in Shannon from KEF last night. Photo: FlightRadar24
The final leg of the journey took place earlier today. Photo: FlightRadar24

The 737-200 is one of the original Boeing 737s. It’s been flying commercially since 1968, and is very much the same as a 737-100 but with an extended fuselage. Its relatively short range of 2,600 miles and lack of ETOPS certification will have necessitated the three-stop hop to Casablanca, one it’s presumably going to have to do in reverse in order to get its passengers home again.

It does beg the question why, with so many long haul aircraft currently grounded, Nolinor was roped in to operate a flight that would require several stops on route. Nevertheless, it’s great to see the old 737-200 in action in Europe, although we don’t envy the return journey for its passengers.

Interestingly, the 737-200, registration number CN-GNLN, has only been with Nolinor since 2007. Prior to that, it began life operating for Royal Air Maroc, so this trip was something of a homecoming for the 36-year-old plane!

RAM 737-200
Royal Air Maroc previously owned the 737-200. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia

Who still operates the 737-200?

Nolinor is one of the world’s biggest operators of the 737-200. These aging aircraft are becoming a rare sight all over the world, as airlines retire them in favor of newer, more efficient planes.

According to Planespotters, the remaining 84 Boeing 737-200s in active service are operated by a melting pot of 51 different airlines. Many of these, although still listed as ‘active’ are actually in storage, so the number you might get a chance to see is likely significantly lower than this.

Operators are scattered all over the world, with most 737-200s operating in developing nations in South America, Africa and Asia. Venezuelan airline Venezolana has a fleet of eight, although half are listed as being in storage currently.

But Nolinor isn’t planning on giving up its -200s any time soon. In June 2018, FlightGlobal reported that the airline had fitted out 10 of its 737-200s with brand new avionics and glass displays, at a cost of $7.6m. The airline is reliant on the -200, particularly for its gravel landing abilities.

Maintenance production manager Pierre Dore told FlightGlobal,

“That’s why we are still using the old -200s … Later-generation aircraft are not approved for gravel runway operations.”

Nolinor runs charters for mining companies in the far north of Canada, a job which is ideally suited to the capable little Boeing 737-200 with its gravel kit installed.

The 36 year old 737-200 was on a rescue mission. Photo: Nolinor

Who is Nolinor Aviation?

Nolinor is a charter airline based in Mirabel, near Montreal in Quebec. It has just 200 employees and operates charter and cargo services, mainly in the US and Canada.

Nolinor operates an all Boeing 737 fleet of 10 aircraft, nine of which are 737-200s. These historical aircraft have an average age of 40.4 years old, although the oldest in the fleet is an impressive 45.9 years of age!

Nolinor is no stranger to operating rescue flights. In 2017, after an Air France A380 suffered an uncontained engine failure over Greenland, it made an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Canada. Nolinor flew to the rescue, taking a number of passengers onwards to Los Angeles, making a stop in Winnipeg on route.

Have you flown on the 737-200? Would you like to? Let us know in the comments.


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Surely Canada could have just sent a wide-body ove to help its citizens and with 3 stops surely a Dreamliner would have worked out cheaper, avoiding landing fees and what must be inefficient engines. Found the gravel runways rationale for a Canadian airline still operating average 40yo aircraft really interesting – not sure I’d be to keen landing on gravel – what modifications are made to the aircraft to stop the gravel entering the jets or smashing wind screen?


OK Air Canada's A330 are a bit big but surely would have been cheaper flying direct less crew hours less landing fees and fuel OK it burns more per mile but it would be a lot less miles.


I too find it incredible that Canada sent a Boeing 737-200 all the way to Morocco to collect some Canadians. Did Air Canada want to much to fly one of their more suitable aircraft? or even WestJet as they too have suitable aircraft to operate the route. Why send a Boeing 737-200 equiped for gravel landing when Morocco as perfectly normal runways.

Marco Prud'Homme President Nolinor

“It does beg the question why, with so many long haul aircraft currently grounded, Nolinor was roped in to operate a flight that would require several stops on route.”
Answer : Because we can.

Rob Lesser

Quebec et les Prud’homme ‘sait faire’ !


Does it maybe have to fly on to some remote airport in Morocco? Or, are the Canadians in Casa Blanca?


Canadá should have rescued Canadians with one of the modern Air Canada Jets. Chartering this plane is for a third world country. Really a bad decision


Bad decision. Third world quality. Canada can better


Shame on Canada for having stranded Canadians returning Home in such a Drag and Costly of a trip. These people deserved to be better treated on this lengthy voyage.


News Releases
Air Canada to Operate Special Flight from Morocco to Bring Canadians Home


Absolutely love the 737-200. Was the first jet I've flown on. Flew many times on it with South African Airways and Air Zimbabwe. Maybe I'm just nostalgic but later 737's just doesn't have the same allure for me.


Main point of the story. Picked up and safe:)


Yes I’ve had the privilege to fly on a few 737-200s the last few years for Air Inuit. Air Inuit hehas them set up front half of the plane is just cargo with a huge side door, and the rear half is for passengers, making it a pretty small cabin. Those engines are remarkably loud and when the landing gear comes up or falls down, it feels and sounds like a part of the plane broke off. It’s not the most comfortable ride, but these planes have character, they have a soul and a personality, each one is different and unique, like old Cessnas or Pipers for the fellow PPLs here.


Been rescued or evacuated? Were they kept hostage by the Morocco government or simply stranded due to border closing? Words can easily be mis-interprated.

akmar dom

Being rescued or evacuated from? Did they became hostage to the Moroccon government or were simply stranded due to border closing? Words can easily be mis-interprated.

Keith Parker

When I hear mention of 737 I only think if the original aircraft introduced by SAA on SA domestic routes. I have flown many kilometres on the trusted Boeing 737 and have only fond memories of this reliable little jet.Bòeing must still be proud to see these trail blazing jets still in use.


One of the 1st planes I flew on a 727-300 operated by Western Airlines. Would love to see what they did to update this aircraft. Great story

Colin V

Yes I have flown on the 737- 100 back in the day when the best airline in the world had them AN
(Ansett airlines) awesome aeroplane.

Hein Vandenbergh

Good to see. An aviator’s aircraft, the original f*t Albert. Flew some in Europe, LH being the instigator of this truncated and re-engined derivative of the 727. And what a success it’s been! Interestingly, you suggest – in the caption to the picture – a comparison of engine diameter cfr to the MAX. Of equal note is the altered stance: MAX has a longer nosewheel strut, to assist in creating more clearance for those engines. The other result of those bigger diam. engines was the addition of M-CAS, responsible – if a single-source cause can be attributed – for tarnishing the 737 series forever. So sad: the original 737-100 and -200 led Airbus to move fr shorthaul widebodies to design the A320 series. Not too shabby for an A/C now so universally maligned. Credit to Boeing, or to Lufthansa? LH for thinking outside the square, to Boeing for having the guts to do it. Joanna: a HUGE amount of aviation history here, would have been nice to cover this in the article (although I’m always here to help -LOL).

Kyle Kirby

I flew on this exact aircraft to North Baffin Island (YMR) many times. The passengers coming home will feel like sardines in a tin can on the way home for sure. Even though the comfort level is very low, this 732 is an amazing aircraft.

Magnus Vikingur

What a gorgeous old girl. Love the original engines.. She even visited Kevlavik, Iceland. My birth place.


o*g I’m so tired of people saying Shame o Canada for leaving people stranded. Granted there are some that are legitimately stuck but how many had decided to head warnings and decided to travel anyways. If you’re irresponsible you should be responsible for your actions.

Magnus Vikingur

What a gorgeous old girl. Love the original engines.. She even visited Kevlavik, Iceland. My birth place. Marco, loved your comment.

Marco Prud Homme President Nolinor
Have you ever visited our company? Please come by anytime.

Wilson Chiwara

I have worked as a maintenance engineer and flown the Boeing 737-200 Advanced both as a passanger and and a pilot for Air Zimbabwe. I have a few thousand flying hour on the type.

The last of the 3, registration Z-WPB, operated by the company, is just about to re-enter passenger operation towards the end of March 2020, after completion of a “C” check at the Air Zimbabwe home mantenance base at Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport, Harare

Wilson Chiwara

Andre 707 one of the Air Zimbabwe B737-200Adv, Z-WPB, should be back in the air by the end of March. I have worked on the 3 B737s and flown them too. A few thousand flying hours on them. Great to see someone who has been on them!


I believe the registration should be C-GNLN. We’re Canadian, not Chinese.


Geez. You people would complain if someone was throwing $100 bills at you. The 737 and her crew did a great job and it speaks to the reliability of the aircraft.


Yeah, was on this Aircraft in 2016 December with Air Zimbabwe between Vic Falls and Harare. Couldn’t stop wondering if B737-200 still exists!! Smooth ride except for the engine noise.

Babatunde Oyetayo

Yes we did operate 2x or so for Fresh Air Nigeria 🇳🇬 early 2000s.Yeah, a great work horse with JT8D engines I reckoned. Very reliable.


The last time I saw a 200 series was at Bodrum Airport , Aegean coast, Turkey about 8 years ago. The airline was Aviogenex which is a Serbian airline I think. Probably well gone by now

Roger Blizard

Been in the British travel industry since 1967. Boeing 737 200.
Britannia Airways, Orion, Air Canada,
Dan Air, South Afican Airways, Monarch Airlines, Frontier(old company), Western Airlines,plus a few others.

Roger Blizard

Been in the British travel industry since 1967. Boeing 737 200.
Britannia Airways, Orion, Air Canada,
Dan Air, South Afican Airways, Monarch Airlines, Frontier(old company), Western Airlines,Olympic Airways plus a few others.


Been in the British travel industry since 1967. Boeing 737 200.
Britannia Airways, Orion, Air Canada,
Dan Air, South Afican Airways, Monarch Airlines, Frontier(old company), Western Airlines,Olympic Airways plus a few others.

Alistair Tritten.

I believe an ex BEA 737 I worked on in 1990’s at Lasham airfield was a -200 in for a refurb and resale. Even back then it had under floor wing support Frames replaced due to corrosion, very surprised so many are still in service, must be a good workhorse.


Why? My guess is because this 737 is a combi type. So it was probably in freighter configuration that way it could be decontaminated easier afterwards.


The 737-200 is a terrific, reliable hearty aircraft, one I wouldn’t hesitate to fly in as a former employee of Nordair! We used them extensively in the far north as well throughout Canada and the U.S. under extreme and often difficult weather situations. Job well done!


Back in the day, I landed on many gravel runways in northern Canada with the early 737’s. That was mostly with CP Air. I have a lot of respect for those old birds.

Philippe Dumont

These people are not stranded or held hostage – they’re long time residents of Morroco and now its time to come back to Canada for the socalized healthcare. More Canadians of convenience rediscovering their citizenship.

Julie A woodruff

Flight attendant on 200s with my charter airline 2003 to 2013 . Love the plane still miss it !! The company went 737-300-400 767-200


Pacific Western Airlines flew the 737-200 from Calgary to Edmonton Municipal airport pretty much on the hour. It was called the “airbus.” You drove to the airport, paid your fare, boarded the aircraft, and in less than 45 minutes you were at your destination. Both PWA and Edmonton municipal are now long gone.


I saw this plane yesterday in Casablanca field and I was very excited : )
Today I’m a 44-year-old pilot who flies the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (RAM) but it is this plane that I started my career 20 years ago, I was happy as a kid to see him coming home,

John Fielding

Shannon because of it’s location has hosted a wide variety of aircraft spanning for example the early prop days of the Dc-3 to the supersonic Concorde and right up to present day the largest commercial cargo aircraft in the world the Antonov 225. I had the pleasure of sitting in the cockpit of a B737-200 for a landing in Dublin Airport thanks to a Captain friend of mine. A great experience! Well done Shannon, Boeing and Nolinor.

R Meikle

Flew many times while posted at mining site in NWT for four years. As we only had gravel runway was ideal for flights from site to Edmonton and bypassed stop in Yellowknife also replacing part of trip on DC3 to get to her service.


Air Canada is sending out a wide body to pick up people stranded in Casablanca today. AC2003. Apparently it has capacity for 450 so I believe it’s a B-777. I got a message from the Canadian Embassy in Rabat. We had registered but decided to leave earlier than planned. Cost is CAD 1273+tax one way which was comparable to what we found when we changed our plans and booked the next available flights 2 weeks ago. Used Aeroplan points and were able to cash in at regular 40,000 point rates so yay Aeroplan!

Red Baron

I flew several times on the 737 100/200/300. In those days we used to call it the SLUF. Not my favorite aircraft, but it was a workhorse for many airlines. This aircraft will go down in history as one of the best aircraft ever built.
Unfortunately the 737 Max was one model too far and stain the reputation of its earlier older models.

Way to go Nolinor. Kudos all around to you and your crews.

Bull Herman

What a bunch of whiners. Not efficient? Install winglets. Engines can be upgraded to -219 version. More power & more mpg.
And, the-200 version does not have computer issues that causes crashes.
Still a POS to all yous?

Azman Shah

Yes! Beside the Queen of the skies, B737 is the knight of the skies. Why modified this trouble free aircraft to Max?

David C.

It was a private charter, and Nolinor was both willing to do it and at a reasonable price. They figured it out and made it happen. Canadians helping Canadians…

The Legacy

I’m not sure why they chose the 737-200 for this trip, but I have a few possibilities:

1) The Nolinair 737-200’s are the Combi variant; meaning it can be reconfigured between passenger use, cargo use, or anywhere in between. If you’re picking up temporary residents of Morocco, you’re grabbing a lot more than typical tourist luggage. VERY few airlines offer that capability.

2) Nolinair will never be affected by the Coronavirus, because their predominant clients are remote settlements in northern Canada that can ONLY be accessed by air at this time of year (the ice roads are likely starting to melt).

3) Air Canada and/or Westjet are not ready to make the trip, after winding down operations.

I’m strongly leaning toward #1 in this particular case.


I’d rather be on a Boeing made 50 years ago than on any Boeing made any day before cash became more important than safety.