Rampside Classic: Boeing 737-200 – Once As Common As a Taurus

(first posted 5/29/2018)    As prevalent as a first generation Taurus used to be, so it was with the Boeing 737-200. To see a nice original 1986 Taurus today is unusual. Even more so is it to see a 737 of that age. The once very common first generation -200s have been mostly retired for years. They were succeeded by the 737-300 (using new hi-bypass turbofan engines and the first of the “Classic” 737s). The -300s and their kin are also generally retired. The hugely successful 737 line continued with the very capable and efficient “Next Generation/NG” series and just recently the most modern 737 “MAX” planes. The 737-200 was Boeing’s first successful local or mid-range service passenger jet and it has been truly significant in the airline business.

The -200 was a workhorse of regional flights (along with the Douglas DC-9) from 1968 up to about 2006/7. It was a common sight and many airlines used it in North America and abroad. The -200 is now too small and too thirsty to economically continue with any major airline but some aircraft are still flying with charter operators in the USA and there is some scheduled -200 service in Canada.

I photographed this 737-205 on the ramp at Cheyenne on 27 May 2018. N467TW is owned by Sierra American, which does business under the trade name “Ameristar Charter”. Though the normal capacity of a -200 in airline service is up to 130 coach passengers, now 67TW has only 56 first class seats. This was a late build -200, coming off Boeing’s Renton line for a first flight on 16 May 1986. The following month it was delivered to Norway’s Braathens SAFE registered as LN-SUZ and named “Olav Kyrre”. Specifically, this model is a Boeing 737-205. The “05” was the Boeing assigned customer code for Braathens’ aircraft (United = “22”; Delta = “32”).

Braathens was established in 1946 and disappeared when merged into SAS in 2004. It was Norway’s largest domestic airline. The various models of the 737 represent the largest number of planes used over the years by the airline. Eventually this airframe went to VASP (Brazil), ConocoPhillips Alaska and in 2013 to Ameristar. 67TW is Boeing’s 737 line number 1236 and serial number 23466. It is a -200 Advanced – signified by better performance and different thrust reversers. Eventually, and by the time this one was built, all -200s were Advanced models. A total of 1,114 -200s were built, the last one in 1988.

The 737-100 made it first commercial flight on flight on December 28, 1967. Just 30 of the shorter 737-100s were built, and most were sold to Lufthansa, which was the first non-American airline to launch a new Boeing plane. The -100s were almost immediately eclipsed by the -200, which had a six foot fuselage stretch, the first of many to come. This -100 was shot at Stockholm Airport in 1968.

This airplane was in Cheyenne after flights on 25 May from Laramie (50 some miles) and prior to Laramie from Charlottesville, Virginia. I know nothing about its purpose sitting in Cheyenne for at least two days.

The noisy and old 737-200 is one of my favorite aircraft. As a frequent flyer I always wanted to be on the Boeing over the Douglas (or later any Airbus). When living in Denver in the ‘70s it served me on many dozens of flights on the original Frontier and the service on that airline was superb (steak, ice cream sundaes and Mateus Rose wine). I still used Frontier a lot in the ‘80s, until it failed.

From the ‘80s on I also had dozens and dozens of flights, maybe even a hundred, on Southwest’s -200s – mostly in Texas but eventually everywhere in the west. I remember many other -200 flights on Western, United, Continental, Piedmont, US Air, America West, Delta, Pacific Western, Eastern Provincial and Canadian. I thought the -200 was a little rocket ship and so did its pilots. Along with the -500, the power to weight ratio made those two the high performance 737s.