The 737 certainly had a relatively slow start. The first 4 aircraft were 737-130s delivered to Lufthansa in 1967 and initial sales were healthy thanks to orders from United and Western for series 200s. Within three years however production dramatically decreased as most of the local service airlines already operated DC-9s and One-Elevens and the US trunks were upscaling to 727 heavy fleets. Production throughout the 1970s hung stubbornly around about 30-40 aircraft a year (1974 was the highest with 55) even with the arrival of the 737-200 Advanced.
Fortunately an improving economic situation and US deregulation really helped the 737 and production 'rocketed' to around 80-90 aircraft a year between 1979 and 1983 (108 was the highest in 1981). The 737 suddenly suited the new startups and the expanding trunk and regional airlines like Delta, Piedmont and USAir. Indeed it was Delta that received the magic 1000th aircraft (N306DL) in 1983, only 6 years after the 500th was built.
The arrival of the larger 737-300-500 series kicked sales up to the next level and in 1991 and 1992 over 200 aircraft were produced annually. The 2000th aircraft was a series 530 for Lufthansa in 1991 and the 3000th a series 400 for Alaska in 1998. The Next Generation 737s have seen the type become the primary seller for Boeing and over 7000 of the 700-900ERs (including BBJs) have been ordered. The 8000th 737 was a 900ER delivered to United in February 2014. All the major Chinese airlines (except Sichuan) operate significant 737 fleets and though none of the entire series' milestone aircraft operate with these carriers several other smaller 737 production milestone aircraft have found there way to China:
China Southern Airlines Boeing 737-71B(WL) B-5283
China Southern has been a loyal Boeing customer ever since its creation however from 1998 it began to take deliveries of new A320s also. As with Air China, and a lesser extent, China Eastern the fleet since has been balanced between both the Airbus and Boeing narrowbody families. The first 737NGs arrived in 2003 with a trio of 737-700s and 8 737-800s. That ratio of short to long 737s has been kept up and in January 2015 there were 33 series 700s and 116 series 800s in service.
B-5283 was the 4000th Next Generation 737 built and joined the fleet in 2012. She wears a small sticker under her passenger door. The 737-700 in CZ's fleet reached a peak of 38 aircraft the next year and has declined slightly since, in favour of its larger sibling.
China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-89P(WL) B-5756
China Eastern’s 737-800 fleet initially consisted of only two frames delivered in October 2002 until the arrival of five 737-89Ps in 2005. In June 2008 a single new aircraft joined followed by six in 2009 and five in 2010. Two aircraft were passed to Shanghai Airlines and the two eldest returned to their lessors, however the fleet has continued to grow with almost continuous deliveries from January 2013 taking it to 57 examples in January 2016. Twenty one aircraft were delivered in 2015 alone.
B-5756 represented the 1000th Boeing aircraft delivered to China and wears the purple variation of the Yunnan Peacock scheme with a small sticker ahead of the L1 door.
Boeing committed in September 2015 to building a 737 finishing line in China and has an impressive order backlog with the Chinese airlines so it seems highly likely that the 9000th or 10,000th 737s may very well be Chinese.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: