Southwest Airlines’ Ancient 737-300: 100,000 Flying Hours


Per, a Southwest Airlines 737-300, registration N694SW, is now the oldest 737 in the world by flying time. The aircraft has flown nearly 100,000 miles, the most of any 737 ever made, the aircraft having been delivered to Southwest in 1985, making it thirty years old. While there are still 737-200’s flying, they haven’t been used nearly as much as N694SW, so, while they are older, they haven’t flown as much. N694SW is also the oldest aircraft in the Southwest fleet, another record set by this aging aircraft.

Southwest has a long history of buying ancient aircraft, including some with questionable safety records. In 1988, TACA Flight 110 from Belize to New Orleans accidentally flew through an area of heavy rain and hail even though the pilot’s radar showed that they were in fact flying between areas of rain. The engines took in too much water and hail, and both engines flamed out. The pilots then turned on the aircraft’s APU and attempted to restore power to the engines using the engine starter powered by the APU, but the engines couldn’t produce any real thrust, and the pilots were forced to shut down the engines when they threatened to overheat. The aircraft then crash landed between two levies in New Orleans. The aircraft was pretty badly broken up, the fuselage was fragmented, the engines had come of the wings, and the nose was rammed into a tree. And guess who bought it– Southwest Airlines. The aircraft, now known as N697SW, is still in service. Not only is the aircraft 27 years old, but it also happens to have had a dual engine flameout and crashed into a tree. If I were Southwest, I wouldn’t be buying.

Southwest, being a budget airline, seems to enjoy using planes until the wings come off. Southwest is operating a thirty year old plane, one that has more miles on it than any other 737. But, of course, I can’t blame Southwest for getting as much use out of their aircraft as they can especially until American retires their MD-80’s…

About the Author

I'm Alex, and I am an enthusiast in all things travel: miles and points, airplanes, airline products, and more. On this blog, you can read my take on recent travel/ commercial aviation news, trip reports, ramblings, rants, and opinions, and I'll even share some of my aviation photography from time to time. Hope you enjoy reading, and happy travels!