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

Canada Sends 36 Year Old Boeing 737 To Rescue Citizens From Morocco
It arrived in Shannon from KEF last night. Photo: FlightRadar24
Canada Sends 36 Year Old Boeing 737 To Rescue Citizens From Morocco
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.

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