Since the Boeing 737 first took to the skies on April 9, 1967 the type has grown to become the world’s best selling airliner and as of November 2020 an astonishing 10,586 have been built.
For many years the 737 had very little real competition. But that all changed in March 1984, when European aeroplane manufacturer Airbus launched their single-aisle competitor, the A320. Initially Boeing dismissed its competitor, but as sales of the new jet increased Boeing was forced to sit up and take notice of this state-of-the-art new aircraft.
By now the original 737 family known as the ‘Classic’ (-100, -200, -300 and -400) had become dated and tired in terms of its technology and so on November 17, 1993 Boeing announced that it was to initiate development of an updated version known as the 737 ‘Next Generation’ (NG). The baseline model was the -700 series and this was rolled out on December 8, 1996. This variant was seen as a direct replacement for the -300 and featured numerous updated features including higher maximum take off weights (MTOW), an improved glass cockpit, redesigned interior configuration, longer range and new CFM International CFM56-7 engines.
Enter The Baby Boeing
On March 15, 1995 the American manufacturer announced that it would be launching the smallest member of their 737 family, designated the -600 to be used as replacement for the -500 ‘classic’. This announcement came with an initial order for 35 of the type by Scandinavian Airline System (SAS).
The fuselage of the baby Boeing is essentially that of the -700, with two plugs of 1.37m (forward) and 1.01m (aft) removed giving the aircraft an overall length of 31.2m (102ft 6in), with an operating range of 3,235 nautical miles.
The first example was rolled out from Boeing’s Renton Factory, Washington on January 7, 1998 and took to the skies at 10:16 PST on January 22, with Boeing Captains Mike Carrier and Ray Craig at the controls. A further two -600s were involved in the flight test and certification process which was granted by the FAA on August 14, 1998.
Despite the popularity of the 737, the -600 was not a commercial success with only 69 of the type ever being built, highlighting the fact that shrinking a baseline model rarely proves popular, as shown with Airbus’ rival the A318 and even earlier, the Boeing 747SP.
The last -600 was delivered to WestJet in 2008 and the Canadian airline had been mooted to launch the model with winglets but later dropped the idea.
The national airline of Algeria welcomed its first -600 (7T-VJQ – named ‘Kasbah D. Alger’) on April 29, 2002 and would go on to operate five of the type in a two class 101-seat layout with 85 Économique seats and 16 Affaires Business seats.
The jet is used for the airlines domestic network and also short-haul operations around Europe, the Middle East and North Africa from their Algiers hub.
Société Tunisienne de l’Air, or Tunisair operated a fleet of seven, 126-seat -600s on its routes across Europe and also a number of domestic rotations.
Its first example TS-IOK arrived in May 1999 and TS-IOP was later painted in a retro scheme to celebrate the carriers 70th anniversary.
Scandinavian Airline System (SAS)
Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) was the launch customer of the -600 and also the largest operator off the type, receiving 30 -600s over six years. The jet was predominantly used for inter-Scandinavian flights but was occasionally seen on flights across Europe. The airline operated the type in an all-economy 120/123 seat layout.
SAS received its first example LN-RPA in October 1998 and would retire its last -600 (LN-RPG) on November 30, 2019 after 21 years in service as the type was replaced by Airbus A320neos. On its final flight, operating under the special flight number SK600, it visited all of SAS’s main hubs before spelling out the number 600 in the sky.
WestJet received its first -600 (C-GPWS) in August 2005 and remains a major operator of the type, plying various domestic routes across Canada. The carrier operates the aircraft in a 113-seat configuration with 12 in premium and 101 in economy.
Malév Hungarian Airlines
The second largest European operator of the Boeing 737-600 was Malév Hungarian Airlines who used six aircraft until their bankruptcy in 2012. HA-LOD was the first to arrive in October 2003. All six aircraft were laid out with 19 business class and 90 economy class seats but were sadly broken up after Malév’s demise in 2012, despite being less than ten years old.
EG&G (Janet Airlines)
EG&G or Janet Airlines is one of the more unusual operators of the -600. Six examples operate for this private and very secretive Las Vegas based carrier that flies for the United States Air Force as personnel transport.
China Southwest Airlines was merged with Air China in October 2002 the new owners inherited the order for six Boeing 737-600s which it decided to keep. B-2155 was the first to arrive in March 2003 and the airline utilised the aircraft between 2003 to 2009 in an 102-seat configuration with 8 business class and 94 economy seats.
FlyGlobespan was the only UK airline to operate the -600 when it took hold of four ex-SAS examples. The first of these 123-seat all economy aircraft, G-CDKD, arrived in April 2005.
SAS would take back two of aircraft in 2008 while the last two would be transferred to Eaststar Jet of South Korea and Midwest Airlines of Egypt before FlyGlobeSpan suspended operations in December 2009. Midwest would rapidly fail and their solo aircraft would be broken up in 2010 while Easter Jet would operate their -600 until 2013.
Austrian Airlines and Lauda Air operated two Boeing 737-600 aircraft between 2000 and 2012. The aircraft, with registrations OE-LNL and OE-LNM, were delivered to Lauda in May 2000 and operated for the airline until their merger with Austrian in 2009. Austrian continued to use the aircraft until 2012 when they were retired and scrapped at MOD St. Athan that same year.
Incidents Involving The -600
On February 21, 2001 a Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) Boeing 737-600, operating flight SK2367 was involved in a near miss with a Pakistan International Airbus A310 flight PK752. The Airbus was climbing away from Oslo Airport while the Boeing jet was inbound when both received a warning via their Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). The PIA jet began an immediate decent and any collision was avoided.
On March 18, 2006 Air Algerie flight 2652, operated by -600 7T-VJQ took off from Oran Airport, Algeria en route to Seville Airport, Spain. As the aircraft approached the runway the weather was stormy with variable rain and winds. A very hard landing ensued due to an unstable approach, during which the right main landing gear was broken. The aircraft was evacuated on the runway and thankfully no one was hurt in the incident. The aircraft was later repaired and returned to service.
On June 5, 2015 a Boeing 737-600 operated by WestJet (C-GWCT) landed long on a wet runway at Montréal. The crew then misjudged their intentionally-delayed deceleration because of an instruction to clear the relatively long runway at its far end and were then unable to avoid an overrun. The investigation concluded that use of available deceleration devices had been inappropriate and that deceleration as quickly as possible to normal taxi speed before maintaining this to the intended runway exit was a universally preferable strategy. It was concluded that viscous hydroplaning had probably reduced the effectiveness of maximum braking as the runway end approached. Passengers were taken from the aircraft via air stairs and no injuries were reported.
While the -600 may have been the least popular 737NG it served the airlines respective fleets well through the years and with capacity being cut by many airlines due to the coronavirus pandemic, it may continue to do so for some years to come.
For the full Boeing 737-600 production list click here.
© Jet Back In Time By Lee Cross.
N.B. The author does not own the copyright for these images.