The Boeing 737-700C is an interesting aircraft. What makes it unique is its ability to convert from passengers to cargo depending on how the airline wants to use it. If you have heavy passenger flow during the summer, but more cargo during the winter, being able to convert between the two is quite helpful.
What also makes the 737-700C unique is that, like the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), it has strengthened wings, different than the standard passenger 737-700. When in passenger configuration, the plane can hold 120-140 seats and fly 3,205nm. In an all-cargo set up, it can haul 40,000 pounds and fly 2,880nm.
The model was launched back in September 1997, when the US Naval Reserve ordered two and called them the C-40A Clipper. This was a big deal, since there had not been a convertible version of the 737 built from the Next Generation-version of the 737 at the time.
The US Navy currently operates 12 C-40As to move personnel and supplies around the world. Think of it as an airliner for the military.
The Boeing 737-700C has also been in the news twice recently, which is a pretty big deal for an aircraft with so few orders. On July 16th, the 5,000th 737 Next Generation rolled out of the Renton factory and it turned out to be a C-40A for the US Navy, which will be happy to take the aircraft.
“The quality and dependability of these aircraft are directly linked not simply to their design, but to the hardworking men and women who build them,” said Vice Admiral Robin Braun, chief of Navy Reserve and commander, U.S. Navy Reserve Force.
The second mention was the announcement that Air Algerie placed an order for two 737-700Cs. When they take delivery, they will be the first commercial airline to use the type. The order was placed back in May, but the customer was not announced until this week. The two aircraft are part of a the airline’s fleet renewal program.
“With an expanding route network, coupled with the growth of the cargo market in North Africa, the 737-700C provides Air Algerie with the flexibility to maximize its revenues across both its passenger and cargo operations,” said Van Rex Gallard, vice president of sales for Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Boeing is proud of the partnership it has built with Air Algerie over the past five decades and is committed to ensuring that the airline continues to flourish through utilizing our range of exceptional airplanes.”
The aircraft is not the most popular. Boeing even says that, “the 737 combi is very much a niche airplane.” There have only been 21 orders placed for the plane and 17 have been delivered. Two were delivered to Saudi Aramco in 2001, one was delivered to SonAir in 2008 and one is actually a Boeing Business Jet Convertible (their fancy name for the 737-700C). All the rest have been delivered to the US Navy Reserve Force. Two of the remaining to be delivered are going to Air Algerie and two to the Navy.
Is there a future for another niche aircraft that can handle passengers and cargo? Bombardier thinks so. They also announced last week that they will offer a Q400 combi, which will seat 50 passengers and carry 8,200 pounds of cargo. It is not quite the same as the -700C, since it will have both passengers and cargo.
The 737-700C is one of those little seen unsung heros of the airline business; not well known, but a champ in the skies.