40 years later, the pre-BBJ 737 is still going strong

An office conversation at King Aerospace (booth 1627) earlier this year made the ears of company founder and president Jerry King stick up. Some of his employees were discussing a private 737-200 that was due to enter his company’s facilities in Addison, Texas for minor maintenance and to respond to some service bulletins.

Hearing this, King’s memory goes back four decades to his time as president and co-owner of the Associated Air Center (AAC) and to the completion project the company carried out on a 737-200, the one of the first Boeings to be delivered green from the factory.

The aircraft had been purchased from the aircraft manufacturer by a Swiss customer who intended to fly frequently from Europe to Africa, and from the outset it was intended as a personalized VIP transport, 14 years before the aircraft manufacturer is launching its Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) division. “When they started talking about it a bit, this floor plan as they described it, I said, ‘I know this plane,’” King said. AIN. “And of course, it was the same plane.”

As equipped at the AAC, the S / N 22628 was one of the first aircraft to feature the PATS auxiliary fuel tank system, long-range navigation and VIP interior. “Back then, people weren’t going out to buy brand new Boeings,” King said. “I felt like stepping into the next generation of business jets because at the time we had a brand new Gulfstream III in the hangar that we were putting an interior in and there were some of the older Boeing 727. But it was a brand new plane and it came from the green factory.

He compared the experience to what pioneers like Dee Howard must have felt as they converted the first surplus military aircraft into executive transport three decades earlier. “It was my very first Boeing, and at Associated, which ended up making a lot of big green planes, it was the first one we cut our teeth on,” King said. “Lots of nights [were] went up there to the installation trying to finish it.

Since the creation of the Boeing Business Jets brand in 1996, Boeing has delivered 251 BBJs. And although there are now over a dozen Completion Centers around the world that can handle such projects, King remembers many instances where the wheel had to be invented, such as decompression analysis, in 1980s.

“When you started building chambers in these planes, it was something we had to do, and then there were different schools of thought: do you have windows and decompression doors, or do you do it in ceiling panels? He also recalls that the plane was equipped with a typewriter in his office, which then represented the state of the art in in-flight connectivity. Another hurdle was the design and installation of a large sideboard in the dining room to safely house the aircraft crystal service.

King oversaw its entry into service and, after being sold by its original owner a few years after delivery, the 737 moved to the United Arab Emirates, where he served as the head of the Sharjah flight department for nearly two decades. It changed hands in 2000 to a Saudi operator, and then again in 2006, this time to a private owner in Brazil, when it was completely renovated. It received another upgrade when the 737 was sold again in 2016 to a Caribbean-based operator, and then in January of this year it was acquired by a Texan businessman who said AIN he will use it to transport his large extended family.

While the floor plan of the 737, with its bedroom located in the front, has remained largely unchanged over the forty years of service, the interior of the aircraft has undergone several renovations. during this period.

Although he hadn’t seen the plane for 40 years, King felt at home when he boarded again. “I could still walk through it with my eyes closed,” he said. “It’s been updated, refurbished over the years, but it’s still a very clean professional aircraft and it looks well maintained.”

The bedroom now contains two beds instead of a single queen-size bed, and the crystal sideboard that was an initial design issue has been removed and its old location in the bulkhead filled in. The typewriter is long gone.

When asked if he had ever tried to locate the plane in the past four decades, King replied, “Is it like I’ve already decided to look for my sweetheart from high school?” Not really, but I wondered where she was.

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