Friday, October 30, 2009

The end of an era, last flight the last United 737

The last of the fleet of United Airlines 737's flew it's last flight on October 28th. I always considered myself a "Guppy Girl" and I loved the 737 airplanes. They were cozy and comfortable and it was a more intimate group of passengers, not like having 200 passengers with 4 flight attendants today on the 757...the 737 had 120 with 3 flight attendants, sometimes 4.
It's the end of an era, that's for sure. Here are some vintage photographs as well as some modern ones, and some Boeing 737 Facts:

■ The entire 737 family is the best-selling commercial jet in
history, with orders of more than 6,000 aircraft over the years.
■ The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged the
737 as the most-produced large commercial jet airplane in
aviation history.
**The first picture here is of the final day in the life of flight 737 which started early in the morning at Dulles International Airport (IAD).
■ More than 541 operators fly 737s to more than 1,200 cities in
190 countries.
■ With more than 4,100 airplanes in service, the 737 represents
more than a quarter of the total worldwide fleet of large
commercial jets flying today.

■ ** Flight 737 on the ramp in Chicago after flying from Dulles. It was then bound for Denver...then San Francisco and then Los Angeles...on it's way to the aircraft graveyard in Victorville, California.
-On average, approximately 1,250 737s are in the air at all times;
one takes off or lands every 4.6 seconds.
■ The 737 fleet has carried more than 12 billion passengers.
■ Since its commercial revenue service history began in 1968,
the 737 fleet has flown more than 75 billion miles – equivalent
to approximately 403 roundtrips from the Earth to the Sun.
**When I began to fly for United, this was the paint job they had...I will always hold this paint as my favorite although I also really like the newest blue paint job.
■ Once the 737-200 was in service, that model quickly proved
to be the overwhelming favorite of the flying public, and the
737-100 was discontinued after production of 30 airplanes.
■ About 50 gallons of paint are used to paint an average 737.
Once the paint is dry, it weighs approximately 250 pounds.
The Boeing 737 as Part of United’s History
*** The paint job was from the 70's and early 80's.
■ It is estimated that the 737-300 and 737-500 for United flew
a combined 6.3 million flights and carried a total of more than
418 million passengers. Altogether, the 737s carried a total of
more than 700 million passengers for United.
■ The 737 is nicknamed by many United pilots the “guppy”.
Accounts of the origin vary, but most agree that it was due
to the squat appearance of the plane compared with its
contemporaries. Originally conceived as a five-across
Economy cabin similar to the DC-9, Boeing widened the
fuselage to make room for six-across in economy but
left the length and wingspan the same, giving it a slightly
pudgy look.
***Earliest paint job after delivery
■ United introduced its first B737-222 into revenue service
on April 28, 1968, adding the B737-300s in 1986 and the
B737-500s in 1990. The 737 fleet totaled more than 220
aircraft at one point.

First United B737 Flight vs. Last United B737 Flight
First Flight Last Flight
April 28, 1968 *October 28, 2009
Model Number 737-200* 737-300
Span 93 feet* 94 feet 9 inches
Length 93 feet 9 inches *109 feet 7 inches
Gross Weight 111,000 pounds *130,000 pounds
Cruising Speed 580 mph *500 mph
Range 1,150 miles *1,820 miles
Ceiling 35,000 feet *37,000 feet
Power Two 14,000-pound-thrust* Two 20,000-pound-thrust
P&W JT8D-7 engines *CFM 56-3 engines
Accommodation 6 crew (3 pilots, 3 flight 6 crew (2 pilots, 4 flight
attendants) and up to attendants) and up to
107 customers 120 customers

United Airlines Flight 737 Facts
■ United received delivery of this aircraft on August 11, 1988, and as of October 28, 2009,
it has flown approximately 60,846 hours and performed 33,836 flights.
■ Of the 33,836 flights, 52% (17,595) occurred at United’s hubs at Chicago O’Hare, Denver,
San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington Dulles):

■ Approximately 3,034,783 customers have flown with us on this aircraft – an average of 394
people per day.
■ It has used approximately 54,488,955 gallons of fuel.
■ This aircraft has had three different paint schemes over the years and three different
seating configurations:

8 United First® seats/120 United Economy® seats
- 8 United First® seats/126 United Economy® seats
- 8 United First® seats/46 Economy Plus® seats/112 United Economy® seats

A Genteel Era of Flying: Reminiscing With Sara Dornacker, Flight Attendant on First B737
Departure From DCAMemories of a First Flight

I was a “stewardess” – as we were called then -- on June 6, 1968, which was the first day that the B737 launched out of Washington National Airport. I remember it vividly, as the date coincided with the introduction of the first Jean Louis designed uniform -- the "mod" style with the kepi hat and short mini-dress.
It was extremely exciting to step on board a brand new jet. I had been on the line for nine monthsI was trained on DC-6s, DC-8s, 727s, Viscounts, and the Caravelle, which was French-made, very comfortable and fast.

The 737 was brand new, and the launch customer was United. Boeing took a lot of pains to ensure passengers had a comfortable experience. I liked it because it had a small first class cabin; the airplane was very comfortable.
It was different from previous aircraft, where the galleys were side-facing in the back of the airplane. And the 737 innovated brewed coffee! On the prop planes at the time, the DC-6s and Viscount, they boarded containers of hot coffee and iced water.

The galley was a real innovation, with one in front and one in back. One of the things to watch out for was on takeoff, we had to make sure the restraining bar on the carrier was in the full up position, or the carrier would slide out. It happened to me on my first flight -- a rack of coffee cups fell out and crashed into the galley on takeoff. It was one of those first flight gaffes you always remember. I never forgot to fasten that restraining bar again!

One of the things that made the 737 superior to previous aircraft was that it had air vents over each passenger service unit, so you could direct the flow of cold, air conditioned air toward yourself or away.
The Heyday of Business Travel
1968 was a time of great prosperity. Business was thriving, and customers were very eager to talk business -- whether they were making Johnson's wax, or auto parts in Youngstown, Ohio, they were mostly sales people flying to sell their products and were really enthusiastic about flying and doing business. They loved United, because we catered to that kind of customer.
My routes were from DCA to Atlanta, Asheville, Huntsville. The aerospace industry was developing, and Huntsville was big for military and defense contractors. I also flew to Ft. Wayne, Rochester, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Lincoln. In those smaller, regional airports, people still came out to the airports to look at the new jet. They used to have observations decks in small airports, where people could watch takeoffs and landings. In Lincoln and Ft. Wayne, people would line up just to watch the airplane land.
Luminaries on Board
Roger Mudd, senior CBS news correspondent, was on the first flight, sitting in the last row of first class. On other 737 flights, there were several repeat customers I enjoyed visiting with. Shirley Povich, father of Maury, who for decades was the sports editor of the Washington Post, was a passenger on one of the flights and invited me to visit his offices at the Washington Post to sign my copy of his book. He even showed me around the newsroom. A couple times we flew Ben Bradlee, and once he sat across the aisle from Frank Mankiewicz, movie producer, coming back from a social function in New York. I was dying to eavesdrop! I've been a political junkie from an early age. We also flew George Foreman and Red Skelton.
Raining in the Galley
The company and Boeing were so responsive to flight attendant feedback about the aircraft. The first winter was brutal, because with galley servicing trucks pulling up to door 1R at the front and an open door on 1L, the winter breezes came through when they put the galley units on board. It was chilly and rained inside the galley, near the entryway to the main cabin door. So they quickly realized that this was a serious safety hazard and bought rubber mats for the floor of the aircraft to prevent people from slipping. We were allowed to wear our coats during galley loading, because it was chilly. The company was really eager for our feedback on how the new aircraft was going over and how the service was being received.
More Innovations
The 737 was the first aircraft with window shades that moved up and down. The DC-6s had cloth curtains, and since the flight attendants didn't have separate serving garments, we put wraps over our uniforms that were striped in the same fabric and stripe as the window curtains. It was very stylish in the 50s for a housewife to wear an apron matching the curtains in her kitchen.
Tray tables were introduced with the 737, which was a great advance. They were built into the seat backs for all but the front two rows, where we had to plug in the tray tables. It was a much greater improvement over the old DC-6s that didn't have any tray tables. We had to distribute pillows to customers to balance the food trays.
A Bittersweet Goodbye
I am sad to see the B737 go. It represents a year that was very important in my life. That was the first year I voted. I was active in the campaign. In fact, I met President Johnson and Hubert H. Humphrey that year. I worked with Humphrey's campaign in the final weeks of October and flew on a United 727 charter with him. I was thrilled to be asked, being that my parents lived in Minnesota. The last time I had a conversation with Humphrey, before he died, it was on a 737. Like a good politician, he claimed to remember me from the charters! And I have the pictures to prove it.

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