Today (February 19) marks another important milestone in the evolution of Lufthansa as a major global airline.
On February 19, 1965 Lufthansa announced it would be the “Launch Customer” for Boeing’s 737. The initial order for 21 aircraft would be the first time that a Non-US based carrier would be a launch customer for a new model from Boeing. Over the course of time, Lufthansa would ultimately operate 155 737s. The cost of initial order was 65 million US dollars. Adjusted for 2014 it would be valued at approximately 475 million US dollars. The first Lufthansa 737 entered service on February 10, 1968 and LH would ultimately operate 155 737s over the years.
This was the first time that a jet was being designed specifically for short haul markets. Previously, jets were primarily used for transcontinental travel, but with the emergence of air travel’s popularity, it had become necessary to provide jet service on shorter distances. In Boeing’s development of the 737, Lufthansa played a vital role in the engineering of the aircraft. Professor Gerhard Holtje, Lufthansa’s board member in charge of engineering at the time was instrumental in the design of the new aircraft that would become the work horse of airlines the world over. This also put Lufthansa’s mark on the map as a significant and influential member of the airline community.
Some interesting facts:
* Approximately 8100 Boeing 737 (including various derivatives) have been manufactured.
*Boeing still builds approximately 45 737s EACH Month!
* There is a 737 landing or taking off every 5 seconds.
* 737’s have carried over 12 billion passengers
* 737’s have flown approximately 65 billion miles (120 billion km)
* The 737 represents approximately 25 percent of the global airline fleet.
Today, Lufthansa still operates 22 737s but it is phasing them out as more efficient aircraft are delivered to the fleet. I had a chance to witness the retirement of a 737 and was in Tulsa when it landed at Lufthansa Technical Component Services where it would be ‘decommissioned’. The last of the 737s should disappear from LH’s fleet by next year.