Aer Lingus had, perhaps unsurprisingly, chosen the British BAC One-Eleven as its first short-haul jet and the first of four arrived in May 1965. They supplemented the Vickers Viscount fleet and were quickly put to work, first on the Dublin-Cork-Paris route. The One-Elevens would have a long career with Aer Lingus but almost immediately proved too small, seating only 74 passengers. Arguably the failure of BAC to stretch the One-Eleven soon enough led to the loss of Aer Lingus as a customer and they instead looked across the Atlantic for alternatives.
Above: EI-ANF served with Aer Lingus from June 1965 until March 1991. Here she is in 1975 at Zurich
The choice fell on Boeing's new 'Fat Albert' 737-200, rather than the competing Douglas DC-9-30, and an order for two was placed in November 1966. This made the Irish flag carrier one of the very earliest to order the type, which was still over a year and a half away from entering service with launch customer United Airlines.
Above: Viscount 803 EI-AOE, seen here in 1966 at Liverpool, had been PH-VIF with KLM until September 1965
One of the features of the Aer Lingus 737-200 fleet was the number of lease periods undertaken. Almost every 737-200 that served with the airline operated one or more leases during their time with the carrier. The first aircraft, EI-ASA, for example was leased out to Air Algerie as early as June 1970 until mid-1971, when she joined Cameroon Airlines and then Zambia Airways. She didn't rejoin the fleet until mid-1976 and served a further lease in September 1983, this time to Nigeria Airways. Her career was not unusual and Aer Lingus 737s saw lease periods with airlines as varied as Air Florida, Bahamasair, Hispania, Egyptair, Transair Canada, Southwest, VASP and Frontier Airlines.
There was no mistaking the Irish nature of the airline however, with a bright green rooftop and tail, dark green windowline and a massive white Shamrock on the tail. Variations of this scheme would carry the airline into the 2010s and be one of the most recognisable airline brands.
Aer Lingus cautiously expanded its short-haul operations in the 1970s with new routes from Dublin-Milan, in 1976, Cork-Amsterdam and Dublin-Gatwick in 1978 and Cork-Zurich in 1979. To service these routes more 737s were required. A United 737-222 was leased for just over two years from May 1974 and new 737-248s were added in 1975 (1) and 1979 (2). Other leased 737s were also added during the 1970s and 1980s even after newer types joined the fleet.
Several other 737-200s were leased during the 1980s, by which time Aer Lingus was looking at a new family of Baby Boeings. In part 2 we'll take a look at the 2nd generation of 737s at the Irish flag carrier.
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: