Today in Aviation – Maiden Flight Of The Boeing 737-900

On August 3, 2000 the largest of the Next-Generation Boeing 737 family, the -900 series operated its maiden flight.

The inaugural sortie which lasted around three hours, saw the jet head over Lake Washington. It marked the start of a six month test program. 

The prototype 737-900 was rolled out on July 23, 2000. (Image: Boeing)

Airbus A321 Competitor

Boeing announced the type, then dubbed the -900X at the Paris Air Show in June 1997 to compete with the Airbus A321. It featured a 2.4m (7ft 10in) extension to its fuselage, taking its overall length to 42.1m (138ft 3in). The type was officially launched on September 10, 1997 following an order for ten of the type from Alaska Airlines with options on a further ten. It entered service with the carrier on May 15, 2001. 

Alaska Airlines was the launch customer of the 737-900. (Image: Alaska Airlines)

However, despite the larger fuselage, Boeing chose to keep the same emergency exits as on the smaller -800 series. This meant that passenger capacity was limited to that of the -800, 189 seats.  Its standard configuration is for 177 passengers in a two-class layout.

Extended Range Variant

Sales were slow and just 52 of the type were ordered. Boeing went on to launch the extended range -900ER in July 2005. Thanks to an extra set of emergency doors aft of the wing, seating capacity increased to up to 215 passengers, with a range of 5,900km (3,200nm). Lion Air of Indonesia became the types launch customer when it received its maiden example in April 2007.

Lion Air Boeing 737-900ER in the plane makers ‘Dreamliner’ livery. Photo: Boeing DreamscapeCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

In September 2003 Boeing revealed that it was looking at creating a freighter variant. The -900F would have used a side cargo door, similar to that on the -700QC or ‘Quick Change.’ It would have been capable of carrying eleven standard size pallets. However, there was little interest from cargo carriers and the idea was subsequently dropped. 

© Jet Back In Time by Lee Cross.

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