By: AirTravellerPH Staff
Last January 8, another Boeing 737 was involved in a fatal crash. The aircraft, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was around 3.5 years old when it went down shortly after take-off from Tehran, Iran enroute to Kiev, Ukraine. None of its 167 passengers and 9 crew members survived the crash. Initial reports from Iran media were pointing to technical problems and they ruled out pilot error.
Just last March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Air Boeing 737 MAX-8 crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa Ethiopia killing 149 passengers and 8 crew members. Five months prior, a LionAir Boeing 737 MAX-8 crashed shortly after take-off from Jakarta Indonesia. Both 737 MAX 8 aircraft were brand new. The MCAS system was being pointed as the culprit of both MAX incidents. This also lead to the global grounding of the 737 MAX variant.
Going back to the recent incident involving a 737-800, growing concerns among passengers about the safety of the 737 is back. Though official investigation results of the PS752 incident are not yet out, Iran media are saying that investigators are somehow pointing to a technical problem.
Even if investigation results are not yet out, why is this hurting the reputation of the 737 once again?
Well first of all, even if the recent crash involves a 737-800 and not a MAX, it is still a 737, hence, that stigma that it's a "dangerous aircraft" to fly in. Thanks to social media. We ourselves are getting questions from our followers on our social media page if any of the local airlines in the Philippines use 737s.
All these uneasiness in flying on board 737s were brought by the recent incidents involving Boeing's highest selling aircraft. With such "stained" reputation plus competition from the Airbus A320 family, will it be the end of the Boeing 737 after 52 years of being sold and produced?
The future of the 737 is indeed uncertain. The ongoing grounding of the MAX where the lifting is still unclear as to when, plus other issues, have resulted to the temporary halt in the production of the aircraft. Another factor to consider is how the market will continue to perceive the 737.
Though many travellers are still confident that the 737 is a relatively safe aircraft, present 737-airlines are now setting their eyes on the Airbus A320 as replacements, particularly the A320NEO and the regional A220-300/100. It is also rumoured that the largest operator of the 737 MAX, Southwest Airlines, is currently checking out the A220-300.
The Boeing 737 first flew in 1967. It was designed to sit low on the ground as cargo loading during that time were manually done in small airports. The 737 was designed as a replacement to the much older trijet 727. It quickly became popular. From that time on, Boeing never developed a narrowbody aircraft to replace the 737. Even when Airbus released the A320 in 1987, 20 years after the 737 first flew, the American manufacturer just kept updating the aircraft. More variants came out such as the New Generation series. The 737 MAX was Boeing's answer to Airbus when the European manufacturer introduced the A320NEO (New Engine Option) series. For Boeing, it was a decision to come up with a totally new narrowbody or to simply re-engine the 737. They decided on the latter, which resulted to the MAX.
Currently, the 737 is still the most popular aircraft in airline history with 10,500 produced, but Airbus is about to overtake that. Since its introduction in 1987, Airbus has produced 9,000+ A320 aircraft. Yes there may still be more 737 produced but Airbus is quickly catching up.
Today, things have changed also in favor of the Airbus A320. In a report from Simple Flying, the A320 family have recorded 12,762,758 passenger flights whereas the 737 has flown 10,478,659 passengers.
With all this going on, it may not be long that Boeing may finally decide to close the book of the 737 and come out with a totally new narrowbody aircraft. The Boeing NMA (New Midsize Airplane) have long been teased but the aircraft manufacturer has not shown any final design yet. A totally new narrowbody aircraft may still take time hence, expect Boeing to focus for the mean time in marketing their widebody aircraft such as the 787 and the upcoming 777-X. At the same time, expect Airbus to soon rule the narrowbody aircraft race.