Boeing 737 Turns 50
On April 9, 1967, Captain Brien Wygle pulled back the throttles, the plane accelerated down the runway and the first flight of the iconic Boeing 737 took off.
That rotation coincidentally launched the Seattle-based company’s #1 plane in terms of sales— 9,448 as of March 2017. Each of the new models serially reflect improvements in capacity, range, fuel efficiency, noise reduction, automation and SAFETY:
- 737-100, 1967
- 737-200, 1967
- 737-300, -400 and -500, circa 1991
- 737-700, 1993
- 737-800, 1994
- 737-900, 2001
- 737-900ER, 2005
- 737 MAX
- 737 MAX 7
- 737 MAX 8
- 737 MAX 9
- 737 MAX 200
That’s a daunting schedule of production for Boeing’s introduction of these 15 models; each model requires massive research, engineering, design, manufacturing planning, purchase of the necessary materials, production line creation/sequencing, etc. Plus, the Boeing sales and finance organizations must get the buyers lined up [with some competition from those folks in Toulouse, France].
There is a team of Boeing engineers who must prepare masses of drawings, data and analyses for the FAA Aircraft Certification organization. Historically, that process is a sequenced dialogue—
- Boeing submission
- FAA review → questions
- Boeing response
- ACO 2nd assessment
Plus an unknown number of further iterations:
- Boeingn ↔ ACOn.
Eventually a type certificate and then a production certificate and series of airworthiness certificates will be issued, if all of the Part 25 requirements are met.
Consider the number of trees that were sacrificed to document these certifications (actually now electronic bytes). What also becomes most evident is the massive consumption of both organizations’ human resources repeating prior justifications and analyses plus determining the compliance of the new additions/alterations.
The FAA has announced that it intends to migrate the new Part 23 regimen to the commercial aircraft certification process. That will minimize the prescriptive, redundant interaction of the past and move to a new risk concentric, engineering focused rubric.
The 50 years of B-737 certification process will soon be revised to introduce new technologies, like electric aircraft, through streamlined and better certification analyses. Regulatory regimens of the future will facilitate the technology innovation of now and the future.