Prototype Boeing 737 short-range passenger jet makes its maiden flight on April 9, 1967.

  • By Eleanor Boba
  • Posted 3/05/2024
  • Essay 3569
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On April 9, 1967, the prototype Boeing 737 takes off from Boeing Field in Seattle. The so-called "Baby Boeing" is a narrow-bodied, twinjet, medium-range plane designed to fill the gap between the 727 and 707 markets. It is the first Boeing plane to be launched with orders from a foreign airline (Lufthansa) rather than a domestic carrier. Despite competition from the Douglas DC-9, the Boeing 737 soon becomes a best-seller and the principal occupation of Boeing’s Renton Production Facility (although the prototype was built at Boeing’s Plant 2 on the Duwamish in Seattle). It is counted among the most successful airliners in history.

"A Delight to Fly"

The black and yellow plane took off from Boeing Field about 1:15 p.m. that Sunday and arrived at Everett’s Paine Field two and a half hours later. Pilots Brien Wygle (1924-2020) and S. Lewis "Lew" Wallick Jr. (1924-2009) performed a number of tests and maneuvers en route, taking the plane up to 15,000 feet and reaching a speed of 400 miles per hour. An F-86 "chase plane" followed to observe. Upon landing the pilots were met by a crowd of media and congratulated by Boeing president William M. Allen (1900-1985). Prior to landing, Wygle radioed, "We hate to quit; this airplane is a delight to fly" ("New 737 Sparkles ...").

The 737 "Original" and its many variants and descendants (737-100 to 900, 737-Next Generation, and 737-MAX) have had a long career; the plane is still in production today [2024], despite several serious incidents and groundings. As of January 2024, 11,685 jets had been built and 4,775 orders were waiting to be filled. Meanwhile, the original prototype is on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight on loan from the NASA Langley Research Center, its last owner. On April 9, 2017, the museum held a 50th birthday party for the plane featuring an appearance by original test pilot Brien Wygle.


Peter M. Bowers, Boeing Aircraft Since 1916 (London: Putnam, 1989); Boeing Historical Archives, Year by Year: 75 Years of Boeing History (Seattle: Boeing, 1991); Harold Mansfield, Vision: The Story of Boeing (New York, Popular Press, 1966); Robert Redding and Bill Yene, Boeing: Planemaker to the World (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1997); Robert Serling, Legend & Legacy: The Story of Boeing and Its People (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992); “The ‘Baby Boeing’ 737 Turns the Big Five-O with a Birthday Party at the Museum on April 9,” Museum of Flight news release, March 13, 2017, website accessed February 21, 2024 (; Bryan R. Swopes, “9 April 1967,” This Day in Aviation, April 9, 2023, website accessed February 13, 2024 (; Robert L. Twiss, “New 737 Sparkles in Maiden Flight,” The Seattle Times, April 10, 1967, p. 15; “737 Commercial Transport,” Products Through Boeing History, Boeing website accessed February 19, 2024 ( /pdf/Boeing_Products.pdf); Note: This entry replaces an earlier item on the same subject. 

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