Boeing 737–400

Flight Notes - how to fly the 737–400

One should hardly be surprised that the world's most prolific manufacturer of commercial aircraft is also the producer of the world's most popular jetliner. The 737 became the best-selling commercial jetliner worldwide when orders for it hit 1,831 in June 1987 (surpassing Boeing's own 727 as the previous champ). However, it wasn't always that way; in the first few years of production, there were so few orders that Boeing considered canceling the program. They didn't, and the airplane has more than proven itself in over three decades of service.

The reason for the 737's great success is its design flexibility. It lends itself well to modifications that fit the market needs of its customers, and currently, seven different variants are available. The ability to order different versions of the same plane allows an airline to fit the airplane to a particular route and passenger load while maintaining a smaller inventory of support and service equipment for its fleet. And, like all of the planes in this family, the 737–400 has crew commonality with its siblings–a pilot qualified to fly one is qualified to fly all of them.

The short-haul 737s have ranges from 2,600 mi (4,180 km) to 3,800 mi (6,110 km). And, speaking of short, the first model's length was only eight inches greater than its wingspan, giving the airplane a compact look that led to its nickname: Fat Albert.

Derivative models of this line were on the drawing boards before the first 737–100 ever flew. The –200 grew in length over the –100 and was fitted with progressively more powerful engines, eventually allowing the maximum takeoff weight to increase by nearly 32,000 pounds (14,515 kg). The most important advancement with the next size, the –300, was the use of a new type of engine. The General Electric/Snecma CFM56 produces more power than the old JT8Ds of earlier models while producing far less noise and providing better fuel economy.

Though known as a classic, the –400 is no longer currently produced. It has been replaced on the production line by the –600, –700, –800, and –900, known as the "Next-Generation Boeing 737s." These newer versions of the 737 maintain the stability and reliability of the traditional 737s, like the –400, but have been updated and enhanced for even better performance.

All variants of the 737 will continue to fly for many years to come. From its short and stubby origins to its more elegant stretched versions, the 737 has always been beautiful in the eyes of airline bean counters. Its position in the travel marketplace and in aviation history is assured.


U.S. Metric
Cruise Speed 477 knots 550 mph 885 km per hour
Engines CFM56-3C1
Maximum Range 2,059 nm 2,370 miles 3,810 km
Service Ceiling 36,089 feet 11,000 meters
Fuel Capacity 5,311 U.S. gallons 20,104 liters
Empty Weight-Standard 76,180 pounds 34,550 kilograms
Maximum Gross Weight 150,000 pounds 68,039 kilograms
Length 120 feet 36.45 meters
Wingspan 94 feet, 9 inches 25.9 meters
Height 36.5 feet 11.13 meters
Seating Seats 147 to 168
Cargo Capacity 1,373 feet 38.9 meters