The Boeing 737-300 program was
launched in March 1981. The market requirements for this
airplane became clear during the late 1970s in an
environment of airline deregulation and the fierce
competition that followed.
As a result of increased competition, there were changes
in the way air routes were served at that time.
Airplanes flew into airports operated as hubs, then
dispersed into a spoke configuration, often to short
distance destinations. The 737 proved ideal for airlines
operating frequent short-to-medium-range routes.
A fuselage extension of 104 inches (2.6 m) allowed the
737-300 to accommodate seats for up to 20
more passengers than its predecessor, the 737-200 model.
In mixed-class service with 36/32-inch pitch
(91/81 cm), the -300 seats 128 passengers; in an
all-tourist arrangement at 32-inch pitch (81 cm),
seating is 140. For inclusive-tour charter service
(30-inch pitch, or 76 cm), a maximum of 149
passengers can be carried.
From the outset, one of the main objectives of the
737-300 program was to maintain commonality with
the existing fleet. The airplane would use new and larger
CFM56-3 engines, an advanced-technology
flight deck and a common airframe. These features
afforded airlines a lower investment in spares,
interchangeable flight crews, and less ground support
equipment and maintenance training. New
aluminum alloys and composites were used to reduce the
airplanes weight and aerodynamic
improvements were adapted from the 757 and 767 airplanes.
Unlike its predecessor, the 737-200, which was powered by
Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines mounted
against the underside of the wing in long, thin nacelles,
the power plants for the 737-300 -- as well as all
subsequent versions of the 737 -- are mounted forward of
the wing on struts. Relocating engine
accessories from the bottom of the engine to the side and
flattening the bottom of the inlet lip solved the
ground-clearance problem created by the larger engines.
In addition, the nose wheel unit was attached
five inches lower on the fuselage.
Besides the new engines, the flight deck of the 737-300
was upgraded to make use of digital technology
like that of the 757 and 767 airplanes. These electronics
systems provide concise flight information,
which allows increased fuel efficiency and improves the
airplanes ability to land in bad weather.
The 737-300 also borrowed the 757s interior
appointments, which include large enclosed bins, galleys
and lavatories located fore and aft; and a wider cabin
that allows airlines to choose a larger aisle or
seats or more window-seat headroom.
The first 737-300 rolled out of Boeing's Renton, Wash.,
plant on Jan. 17, 1984, and made its initial flight
Feb. 24, 1984. That began a nine-month flight test
program, during which a fleet of three 737-300s
logged nearly 1,300 hours in the air.
Certification of the 737-300 by the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration was awarded Nov. 14, 1984.
First deliveries of the new aircraft occurred Nov. 28,
1984, to USAir and Nov. 30, 1984, to Southwest
Airlines. Both carriers put their new aircraft into
revenue service during December 1984. The British Civil
Aviation Authority granted certification on Jan. 29,
1985, the same day that Orion Airways of Great
Britain became the first non-U.S. customer to take
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