Air Transport World

One year with Boeing's 737-300; an in-service report.

One year with Boeing's 737-300; an in-service report

Operators usually profess unqualified love for a newly bought aircraft, even if large bits constantly fall off or break, partly due to a reluctance to admit to operating potentially faulty equipment and partly because they don't want to alienate the manufacturer at a time assistance is needed most.

So when Boeing 737-300 operators openly discuss the exceedingly minor teething problems experienced introducing the aircraft it is easy to believe their claims of being "very, very happy' with it.

The 737-300 is making Boeing very happy. In missions it was designed to perform, it is as advertised or better, according to Boeing and operators. As a bonus it is excelling in jobs not in the main Boeing marketing portfolio, such as long haul, but mentioned as an afterthought in the back of the book. In either case the aircraft appears to be an operational winner, according to conversations ATW had with four major U.S. operators. Follow-on orders and additional new sales back that appearance with cold, hard cash.

Just as McDonnell Douglas found in its MD-80 experience, the 737-300 has shown Boeing that a new high-bypass ratio engine grafted to a stretch of a proven airframe produces wonderful operating economies without the massive capital costs associated with wholly new aircraft programs.

Nearly three years ago at the 737-300 rollout, Phil Condit--now Boeing's VP-sales and marketing but then VP--GM Boeing Renton Div.--took an educated guess that his firm would collect 500 orders for the aircraft. Some 30 months after his prediction the program broke the 300-order mark. And, on the strength of the recent United Airlines order, the total will exceed 411 if United takes all 110 737-300s on order and option. It seems Condit's prediction will be on the low side-- very low.

Mark Gregoire, Renton Div. Director, said, "The pace of 737-300 sales has been much better than expected.'

Biggest change

The reason for the technical success of the program to date is simple. The airplane is a minor stretch and modification of Boeing's oldest in-production airliner. The airframe and systems are little changed from the original 737-200, a low-risk arrangement. The biggest change on the dash 300--the CFM56-3 turbofans-- came to the airplane after its close relative, the CFM56-2, had been riding for several years on the wings of re-engined McDonnell Douglas DC-8s, getting debugged. …

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