Browsing Tag: Boeing 727

Outside the Boeing 737 Factory in Renton, WA. Photo by Chris Sloan /

Outside the Boeing 737 Factory in Renton, WA. Photo by Chris Sloan /

This story was written by Chris Sloan and originally was published on This is the first of a multi-part series looking at the Boeing 737 factory in Renton.

On the evening of March 18, 2013 Boeing’s Renton Plant rolled out its first Boeing 737, a 737-800 bound for Panamanian Airline COPA, at the astounding new production rate of 38 aircraft per month. Boeing had only reached 35 airplanes per month, its previous historic high commercial production rate in January 2012. 2 days later on March 20, 2013, Boeing delivered the 7500th 737, the 7,229nd example built at Renton (more on this later). By Spring 2014, the rate is expected to leap to 42 aircraft per month.

In 2015, Renton will begin production of the new 737 MAX that is due to enter commercial service in 2017, 50 years after the 737 first entered service in 1967! The Boeing 737 is the best-selling and longest continuously produced commercial airliner of all time with over 10,500 deliveries and orders. As of April, 2013 between the new Max (1,234) and current the Next-Generation (4,395), the 737 backlog stands at 3,136 aircraft. With the increased production rates, the current order book will take 6 ½ years alone to clear. Boeing’s current market outlook estimates 23,000 new narrow body airliner orders in the 737 / A320 families category over the next 20 years. Three draw dropping data-points stand out:

  • 40% of the world’s jetliner fleet has been manufactured at Renton.
  • Renton has produced an astonishing total of over 15,000 aircraft making it one of the most prolific aircraft factories, and the most prolific jetliner factory in history.
  • With approximately 5,600 737s in service, 25% of the world’s large jet fleet (non RJ) are Boeing 737s.

This classic Eastern Air Lines commercial from the 1960’s (guessing around 1964, since that is when the 727-100 entered service) highlights the Boeing 727 entering service with the airline. They tout it as “being as quiet as a library.” Hmm… I am not sure what library they are hanging out in, but those Boeing 727-100’s without hush kits are not known for their silence. Well, at the time, they were quieter than other jets, but as much as a library? Haaardly.

FedEx Boeing 727. Image by JL Johnson.

FedEx Boeing 727, named Colin, arrives to Kansas City. Image by JL Johnson.

A blog reader and aviation fan, JL Johnson (@user47), was recently able to witness the last flight and donation of a FedEx Boeing 727. He agreed to share his story and photos with the blog. Here is his story in his own words:
I suspect it’s no news to readers of, but we aviation enthusiasts are a unique group of folks. Of all the peer-groups I belong to, aviation geeks, that is, avgeeks, are the most loyal, diverse, and enthusiastic I have encountered. One thing I’ve noticed about avgeeks is they always want to deepen their bonds and connections to the industry. Whether it’s catching the newest livery while plane spotting and sharing it on social media, hopping on an inaugural flight, or social networking our ways into typically non-public areas with great aerodome views, we’re always curious. And, with this, I’ve noticed a trend.
It seems the vast majority of folks are focused on what’s new: New planes, new routes, new airlines, etc. And while this is great, it seems I’m more interested in what’s old. Maybe it’s my obsession with history, but I want to be a part of, or at least witness history. Recently, I got that opportunity.
FedEx Boeing 727. Image by JL Johnson.

A proper airport welcome at KCI. Image by JL Johnson.

On Wednesday, August 1st at 10:14 AM CDT, a 34-year old Boeing 727 with registry N483FE touched down on Kansas City International Airport’s (KCI) runway 19R marking the end of its life with 34,671 flight hours.

The plane, named Colin, after the child of a FedEx courier, was originally delivered to Braniff Airways in 1978 as a passenger liner. In May of 1990 FedEx Express took ownership of the plane and oversaw its passenger to freighter (P2F) conversion. Shortly after, it entered the FedEx Express fleet where it served alongside dozens of other 727s for 22 years.

While the termination of FedEx Express flight 9044 from Memphis, TN marked the end of the sky for a plane, it highlights a quickening retirement plan for this and other tri-jets in fleets across the world. With higher maintenance costs for older planes and drastically more fuel-efficient alternatives on the market, planes like Colin have quickly fallen out of favor.

Those Boeing 727s that were converted to freighters increased their lifespan, but for Colin, he is about to start a new chapter. Image by JL Johnson.

Those Boeing 727s that were converted to freighters increased their lifespan, but for Colin, he is about to start a new chapter. Image by JL Johnson.

So, what’s one of the world’s largest airlines to do with all of these old fuel inefficient planes? According to David Sutton, managing director of Aircraft Acquisition and Sales for FedEx, the solution was simple: Donate the planes to the communities they serve to support educational endeavors.

In 1995 FedEx Express launched their aircraft donation program with the donation of a plane to the FAA who at the time was interested in studying the effects of corrosion and fatigue on aging aircraft. Since then FedEx has donated over 50 airplanes to charities, museums, and airports.

You are not a true avgeek if you don't love a tri-holer. Image by JL Johnson.

You are not a true avgeek if you don’t love a tri-holer. Image by JL Johnson.

Kansas City Aviation Director Mark VanLoh gladly accepted FedEx’s donation which the airport intends to use for emergency response training. Mr. VanLoh shared with the audience that with this plane, the airport and its crucial emergency responders will no longer be reliant on the generosity of its constituent airlines to loan their planes for training exercises.

In the coming days Colin will be relocated to the southeast side of the airport near an on-site overhaul base where it will lose its engines. While two of the engines will in some fashion make their way back into service, via parts or spares, one will be preserved and donated to the National Airline History Museum where patrons can visit and learn about the low-bypass jet engines that helped usher in the modern era of aviation.


About the author: I’m a Kansas City, Missouri based Senior Business analyst with a ridiculous obsession for all things aviation. As an avid plane spotter, I can often be found on or near airport property with a telephoto lens. Let’s get social! I’m on twitter and most other social media as @user47 and occasionally blog over at