Putting Boeing 737 & Airbus A320 Popularity Into Perspective

There are all sorts of impressive statistics for commercial airliners, cost per available seat mile, cost per block hour, how many hours of flight per incident, how many operators fly a specific aircraft, types of variants of aircraft … but sometimes its difficult to put all these numbers into perspective.

First the basics, the Boeing 737 first entered service on the 10th of February 1968 with Lufthansa. Since entering service the 737 has been the most popular commercial airliner ever built, with 6,687 737s having been built, as of February 2011.

The Airbus A320 entered service 20 years after the Boeing 737 on the 28th of March 1988 with Air France. Since the A320 entered service there have been 4,582 A320s built, as of February 2011.

With so many of Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s flying all over the world, just how often do these planes land and take off?

Airbus estimates that an Airbus A320 takes off somewhere in the world every 2.5 seconds. Normally this statistic would be impressive … until stacked up against the Boeing 737. Boeing estimates every single second 2.2 of their 737s land or take off somewhere in the world.

As airlines look to Boeing and Airbus to design replacements for the 737 and A320, clearly these planes aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Happy Flying!

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  1. These claims strike me as being hogwash. There are 86,400 seconds each day (60 sec * 60 min * 24 hr). Assuming every 737 ever built is still flying (which is an over-estimate of the current fleet), this 2.2 movements per second doesn’t stack up. 86,400 *2.2 movements per second implies 190,080 movements per day. Divide this by a maximum fleet of 6,687, and again by 2 for take offs and landings, that would imply 14.21 take offs per day per aircraft.

    I think almost no 737s regularly take off that many times a day…and it’s certainly not the average.

    Slightly more erasable math for Airbus, but still not feasible for them either.

  2. Tom,

    I have asked Boeing and Airbus to quantify their statements … although the Boeing statement is take off or land…so that could reduce the movements to 7 flights a day.

    When you factor in all the short haul and LCC flights operated by 737s that may be possible on average.

    Happy Flying!

    -Fish

  3. I presume that the A320 numbers don’t include the A319 or A321 which are both variants of the original – whereas I presume that the 737 numbers include all variants. As it is, it seems that the A320 is currently substantially outselling the 737, or did the 737 have a particularly slow first 20 years?

  4. Fish – Let me know what they say. For the avoidance of doubt, the 14 number is the number of take offs and landings they purport, divided by 2. Their math would indicate 14 take offs and 14 landings.

  5. 86,400 seconds divided by high estimate of 7500 airplanes in service comes to 11.52 seconds divide by take off and landing comes to 5.751 landings/takeoffs. This assumes every plane flies one trip per day.

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