In the last century, thousands of commercial aircraft have been built and delivered to customers all over the world. But which are the most produced aircraft? We take a look at the most produced commercial aircraft in history with our top-five rundown.
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1: The Douglas DC-3
The DC-3 is an airplane that is older than most people on the planet today. First introduced in 1936, it went on to become one of the most extensively produced aircraft in history. The total produced tallied up to 16,079 aircraft, although most of these were not commercial planes.
Overall, 607 civil variants of the DC-3 were built, operated by airlines including American, United, TWA, Eastern and Delta. KLM in Europe also operated the type. However, its heyday really came when World War II broke out in 1939.
As well as drafting in civilian DC-3s for the war effort, more than 10,000 US military versions were built. These were given various names, including C-47, C-53, R4D, and Dakota, and were used by armed forces of many countries for troop transport, cargo, and air ambulances. Copies were even built in Japan and the USSR as the Showa L2D and the Lisunov Li-2, respectively.
Today, around 400 are thought to remain in service, despite production ending in 1950.
2: The Boeing 737
Over half a century of its history, the Boeing 737 has sold so many units that it is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. The 10,000th 737 rolled off the production line back in March 2018, to be delivered to Southwest Airlines, an all-Boeing 737 airline. Prior to the MAX debacle and the challenges of 2020, Boeing was delivering these jets at a rate of some 47 per month.
The 737 is operated by more than 5000 airlines in almost 200 countries, and under normal circumstances, there would be some 1,200 in the skies at any given time. According to Boeing today, 10,437 737s of all generations have been delivered to customers. On top of this, there are an estimated 450 737 MAX built and awaiting delivery right now. There are still more than 4,000 unfilled orders on its books too.
With numbers like that, the 737 remains the bestselling modern jet aircraft in the world.
3: The Airbus A320
The Airbus A320 family hasn’t been around as long as Boeing’s 737 has, but it still remains a solid competitor to the American manufacturer’s narrowbody. Despite coming to market 20 years later than the 737, the A320 has certainly cornered its share of the market.
According to Airbus figures today, 9,626 A320 aircraft have been delivered across all the variants. The backlog stands at almost 6,000 aircraft.
Of the types produced, the most popular to date has been the A320ceo. 4,770 units have been sold, with only a handful remaining to be delivered. However, with the improvements to the neo generation, the orders for the latest variants have been flooding in. Of these, the A320neo and A321neo are fairly well matched for orders, with 3,925 and 3,446, respectively.
As a family, the A320 has gained in popularity to put it in the same order of magnitude as the Boeing 737, making it the second most produced modern commercial jet in the world.
4: The Canadair Regional Jet
One of the more overlooked members of the commercial aircraft family is the Mirabel produced Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ). Across its derivatives of the CRJ200 (50 seats), CRJ700 (65 seats), CRJ900 (76 seats) and CRJ1000 (100 seats), the family of aircraft is one of the most popular small jets around.
The CRJ launched in 1992 with Lufthansa. Over the years, it has become a staple of the regional transportation world, operated by the likes of Delta Connection, Endeavour Air and Air France subsidiary HOP!
But the CRJ mission is coming to an end. Right now, Mirabel is putting the final touches to its 1,945th aircraft. It will be delivered to US carrier Delta Air Lines in the next few weeks, and will be the last aircraft to roll off the production line.
The facilities have been bought by Japanese heavyweight Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), who plan to launch MHI RJ Aviation and to continue providing MRO to CRJ owners.
5. The Boeing 727
Announced in 1960, the Boeing 727 was designed as a smaller city aircraft that could cater to lower passenger loads and shorter runways. The trijet became a staple of the short-haul market, clocking up more than 500 orders in its first two years of service.
The aircraft sold well to airlines all over the world. In the US, in particular, the fleet was sizeable, with operators including Delta Air Lines, Pacific Southwest, Braniff and Pan Am. For more than a decade, the 727 was the most extensively produced commercial aircraft, and when production ended, the total 727s delivered numbered 1,831.
The 727 held the crown for most produced jet aircraft until the 1990s, when it was surpassed by the Boeing 737. A handful remain in service today, including one that is used to give passengers an anti-gravity experience.
Bestseller of the future? The Boeing 777
The 777 is an aircraft that is very well suited to the modern age. Thanks to the implementation of ETOPS, allowing twinjet aircraft to fly farther away from alternative airports, airlines are now much more inclined to rely on two-engine aircraft for their long-haul needs.
The 777 has catered to this need perfectly, selling 2,012 across all models to date. The total delivered, however, is still only 1,649. The backlog, for 363 aircraft, is largely for the yet-to-enter-service model, the 777X, although a handful of -300ER and 777F are still to be delivered.
If the 777X proves to be as comfortable and efficient as Boeing claims, we should see the 777X as the perfect 747 replacement in years to come as airlines move into the next generation of widebody aircraft. Perhaps in years to come, this one will make its way into the top 5.
Honorable mention: The Cessna 172
While it’s not strictly speaking a commercial aircraft, we couldn’t talk about the most produced aircraft in the world without mentioning is the Cessna 172. In production since 1956, the little aircraft has sold an incredible 44,000+ units. It’s still in production today, and remains a staple of general aviation, and is occasionally used for commercial operations too.
Have you flown on all of these most produced aircraft? Which ones are missing from your collection? Let us know in the comments.