DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the prototype of the Boeing 737-500, N73700, took to the skies for the first time in 1989.
Known previously as the 737 ‘Lite’ and 737-1000, the -500 was formally launched in 1987 following an order from Southwest Airlines (WN) for 20 aircraft. At this point, the Boeing 737 had become the most ordered aircraft in commercial history.
The single prototype flew 375 hours for the certification process. FAA certification was awarded on February 12, 1990, and the aircraft entered service with WN on February 28.
The airline would go on to operate 25 of the type, retiring its final example on September 5, 2016.
The shortest of the ‘Classics’ the -500 was designed as a modern, direct replacement for the 737-200. It incorporated the technological improvements made in the -300/-400. These included upgraded CFM International CFM56-3 turbofan engines, which gave a 25% increase in fuel efficiency over the older -200s Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines.
The 101ft 9in (31m) long aircraft could carry a maximum of 145 passengers. With an MTOW of 60,555KG (133,500lb) and a maximum cruise speed of 912km/h (492kt), the variant had the largest range of any of the 737 ‘Classics’ at 4,444KM (2,400NM).
In 2007 a winglet retrofit, known as the -500SP became available. Aviairton Partners Boeing (ABP) launched the first blended wiglet retrofit to a Continental Airlines -500 on March 12, 2007.
Boeing would build a total of 389 -500 airframes, with the final example being delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) on July 26, 1999.