With the grounding of the Boeing 737-MAX affecting airlines across the world, one of the main US customers of the type, United Airlines, has recently ordered a batch of 19 second hand air frames to compensate the grounded fleet.
All 19 aircraft are Boeing 737-700, the airline hasn’t revealed who the previous operators are, but this is likely a short term lease plan to facilitate the grounded planes.
Recently, United Airlines has ordered some second hand Airbus A319, some of which are coming from British airline easyJet and China Southern, a major Chinese airline.
United Airlines is a long time operator of the Boeing 737, having operated the Boeing 737-200 as the types launch customer from 1968 until 2001, as well as being the first US Airline to operate Boeing’s now most successful product.
Sadly one air frame, N999UA, was destroyed in March 1991 at Colorado Springs due to a then-unknown malfunction of its rudder on final approach killing all 25 on board- an issue that would affect more 737’s across the 1990’s and eerily mirror what we have been seeing with the current 737-MAX. The First Officer of that flight, 42 year old Patricia Eidson, was the first female commercial pilot to perish in a disaster. This case was later covered in the documentary series Air Crash Investigation/Mayday (depending on whether your in Europe or North America) in 2007.
The airline then utilised the Boeing 737-Classic family from 1986 until 2009 with the 737-300 and 737-500. The airline operated over 300 examples of these initial Boeing 737 aircraft. However in 1993, the airline began to take on a huge fleet of Airbus A319/A320 aircraft and the Boeing 737’s eventually left the fleet completely by 2009, but it would only be temporary.
In 2012, Continental Airlines officially merged with United Airlines bringing the Boeing 737 back into United with a fleet of Boeing 737-500/-700/-800/-900(ER). This introduced United to the Boeing 737-Next Generation models and reintroduced the Boeing 737-500 for another few years before getting rid of them to Russian airline UT Air by 2013.
The introduction of the Continental fleet also brought United the Boeing 737-MAX, which how they came to have them. Currently, United has 329 Next Gen air frames and 135 MAX air frames on order or delivered, but grounded.