Sixteen years after the first 737 NG was delivered and more than 20 years after Boeing began work on the 737 NG program, the 5,000th 737 NG has left the Renton factory and moved on to pre-delivery testing. Number 5000 is a U.S. Navy C-40A Clipper (effectively a 737-700C) with a cargo door for mission flexibility, and is seen here landing at sunset at Boeing Field, returning from a test flight to Moses Lake.
The C-40A replaced the DC-9-based C-9B Skytrain II as a logistics support aircraft for the United States Navy, while also serving as the the basis for a commercial quick-change variant of the customer 737-700. As the cargo door and logistics mission imply, it can be configured to a mixture of passenger and cargo (this is a military plane, so combi configurations are slightly different than for commercial operators) or to full freighter or full pax setups. The C-40 comes in two other variants – one is the C-40B, which is intended for Government VIP transport and is essentially similar to the 737 BBJ1 with extra communications equipment, and the second is the C-40C, which is closer to a standard 737-700 and used to transport VIPs in configurations from 42 to 111 passengers.
Development of the 737 NG began in 1991 and the program was formally announced in November, 1993. The successful launch of the Airbus A320 prompted considerable refinements to the 737 family including a new wing and updated engines which brought considerable fuel savings over the pre-existing 737 classic family but retaining core commonality. The first 737 NG, ordered by Southwest Airlines, rolled out of the factory in Renton in December, 1996. The 737-700 was certified on Nov. 7, 1997 and entered service a little over two months later. Other versions of the NG, the smaller -600, the larger -800, and the still larger -900 (and later -900ER), followed in the months and years after. During the certification process for the -700, the U.S. Navy placed the first order for the -700C, in the form of the C-40A, on September 3, 1997.
Although the 737-700C was recently in the news thanks to an order from Air Algerie, it is the least common variant of the 737NG, with just 15 delivered since that initial order – 12 C-40As to the U.S. Navy and three to private companies.
As of May, the 737 NG program had delivered:
1,120 737-700s (counting -700Cs)
309 737-900s (counting ER & Non-ER)
48 military-variant 737s, including the P8 Posiedon/P8i Neptune and the Peace Eagle/Wedgetail AWACS aircraft.
© Photographer Alex Kwanten