Published on November 1st, 2016 | by Jim Lee


Lufthansa bids farewell to its Boeing 737 fleet, as D-ABEC operates last flight

On 31st October, Lufthansa finally bid farewell to its Boeing 737 fleet after 48 years. Boeing 737-330, D-ABEC (fleet name ‘Karlsruhe’), which was delivered to Lufthansa on 9th July 1991, operated the types final scheduled flight, marking the end of an era for Lufthansa, spanning almost 50 years.

Just before noon on 31st October, the aircraft, one of six 737-300s remaining in the airline’s fleet, departed Frankfurt as the DLH9922, enroute to Hamburg, where this special flight landed at 12:47. Here Lufthansa’s Boeing 737 fleet was officially bid farewell, during a joint event with Lufthansa Technik.

After that special ceremony, Captain and Fleet Commander Ulrich Pade and his crew flew back to Frankfurt, as the DLH9923, departing at 15:37, with a group of media representatives as well as a number of employees on board, and landed in Frankfurt at 16:28.

Der letzte Linienflug einer Boeing /§/ bei der Lufthansa. Carsten Spohr überreicht Blumen an die Crew.. Frankfurt, den 29.10.2016

The crew of the final Lufthansa Boeing 737

Lufthansa’ Boeing 737-330’s were no strangers to Ireland and Dublin in particular, and D-ABEC was last noted in Dublin on 8th February, when she operated the DLH980/1, the Frankfurt-Dublin service.

On 1st November, the aircraft positioned from Frankfurt to Hévíz–Balaton Airport, (previously also known as Sármellék International Airport), located west of Lake Balaton in Hungary and 190km south west of Budapest. It departed Frankfurt at 13:55 and landed at Hévíz–Balaton Airport at 14:58.

Earlier on 29th October, Lufthansa ended formal, scheduled Boeing 737 operations when D-ABEF, (fleet name ‘Weiden in der Oberpfalz’), landed at Frankfurt Airport at 19:53, with 131 passengers on board. Captain Ulrich Pade was again at the controls, for what was a special and moving occasion. The passengers applauded after landing and they had the opportunity to take photos in the cockpit afterwards. Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, didn’t miss the chance to be there in person to thank the crews and pose with them for photos.


A Lufthansa Boeing 737-500. The -500 has been in the fleet since December 1991

Shortly before this, three further Boeing 737 aircraft had also landed, arriving from Stuttgart, Geneva and Leipzig/Halle. In honour of their service, they were led by ‘follow-me’ vehicles, to the parking positions in front of terminal 2, where a large crowd of aircraft fans and ‘plane spotters’ could take a final look at these aircraft from the Visitor’s Terrace.

“Lufthansa has always taken innovative approaches to cater the customers’ needs and to take advantage of market opportunities, which is why we played a key role in the B737’s creation and development. We will continue to pursue this innovative approach with the latest generation of aircraft,” said Harry Hohmeister, Member of the Executive Board and Head of Hub Management.

Lufthansa played a key role in the development of the type affectionately known as ‘Bobby’

Over the decades, Lufthansa has had a total of 148 Boeing 737 of almost all models. At the beginning of the 1960s, the then Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Technik, Professor Gerhard Höltje, pushed the project forward and supported the joint development of a short and medium-haul jet with Boeing. The cabin design and the positioning of the engines under the aircraft’s wings were based on the long-haul aircraft of the time.

Verabschiedung Bobby, letzter Linienflug B737

The last Lufthansa Boeing 737’s parked up after the last flights

A 1960s children’s book described the Boeing 707 as the father and the Boeing 727 as the mother of the small jet named “Bobby”. This name caught on in Germany. “The Boeing 737 has always been called “Bobby” by Lufthansa employees and German aircraft fans. Many passengers and employees associate a very special time with this aircraft model. We want to thank the B737 for almost 50 years of reliable and successful operations,” said Klaus Froese, CEO Lufthansa Hub Frankfurt.

All six remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft will be transferred to Florida in the coming weeks, where they will be resold. In future, Lufthansa will offer continental services with a single type of aircraft, which will result in synergies in various areas, such as pilot licensing, cabin crew and planning and provision of spare parts. The Lufthansa Airbus A320 family currently consists of around 150 A319, A320 and A321 aircraft and also includes four aircraft (D-AINA/D) of the latest generation – the A320neo.

On 19th February 1965, Lufthansa was the world’s first purchaser of 22 Boeing 737-100s. Almost three years later, on 4th February 1968, the first Lufthansa production 737-100 model landed in Hamburg. Earlier, on 28th December 1967 had taken delivery of the aircraft in a ceremony at Boeing Field, which was initially used for crew training. The following day, United Airlines, the first US domestic customer to order the 737, took delivery of the first 737-200. The -100 was 94ft (28.65m) long, carried 115 passengers and had an MTOW of just 42,411Kgs (93500 lbs), less than half that of the current -900 series. Just 30 series 100’s were built, with 22 going to Lufthansa. These aircraft flew 643,048 hours and made 836,446 take-offs and landings, before the model was phased out on 25th February 1982.


Lufthansa Boeing 737-300 D-ABEC on finals. The -300 provided the backbone of the Lufthansa short-haul fleet in the 1990’s

Within a short time, Lufthansa had taken delivery of the larger Boeing 737-200. The stretch from the -100 was achieved by adding two sections to the fuselage; a 36” (91.4 cm) section forward of the wing and a 40” (101.6 cm) section aft of the wing, giving a maximum capacity of 130 passengers with a 28” (71.12 cm) seat pitch. All other dimensions remained the same. Lufthansa operated the Boeing 737-200 in various passenger, combi and freight configurations.

The first of the ‘classics’, the Boeing 737-300 was delivered to Lufthansa in 1986. This was a much quieter, larger and more economical aircraft and contained a host of new features and improvements. Two sections were added to the basic -200 fuselage; a 44” (111.76 cm) section forward of the wing and a 60” (152.4 cm) section aft of the wing. The new model also featured many aerodynamic, structural, cockpit and cabin features developed for the new -generation 757/767. Composite materials were used on all flight controls to reduce weight and aluminium alloys used in areas such as wing spars, keel beams and main landing gear beams which improved their strength by up to 12% thereby increasing service life.

One of the objectives was to have a high degree of commonality with the 737-200 and the achieved figure was 67% by part count. This gave saving for airlines such as Lufthansa in maintenance, spares, tools for existing 737-200 operators. Also the aircraft was designed to have similar flying qualities, cockpit arrangements and procedures to minimise training differences and permit a common type rating.

The sole power plant was the CFM-56, the core of which is produced by GE and is virtually identical to the F101 as used in the Rockwell B-1. The main problem was the size of the engine for ground clearance; this was overcome by mounting the accessories on the lower sides to flatten the nacelle bottom and intake lip. The engines were moved forward and raised, level with the upper surface of the wing and tilted 5 degrees up which not only helped the ground clearance but also directed the exhaust downwards which reduced the effects of pylon overheating and gave some vectored thrust to assist take-off performance. The CFM56-3 proved to be almost 20% more efficient than the JT8D used on earlier models.

Lufthansa went on to operate a small number of Boeing 747-400s and a much large fleet of Boeing 737-500s, which offered a high level of comfort, efficient fuel consumption and low noise levels compared to earlier aircraft operated by the airline.

The type had a number of notable firsts. In May 1988, the first co-pilots were trained to fly the Boeing 737, which was also the first aircraft to witness to the reunification of the two Germanys as it was the first aircraft to land in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, landing at Leipzig Airport. A little later on 2nd October 1990, the first Lufthansa flight with the Boeing 737 took off to West Berlin. In the summer of 2016, the Boeing 737 was given one last great honour, when Boeing 737-330, D-ABEK was painted in ‘Fanhansa’ colours and flew to France with German national football team on board.

At its peak in the 1990s, up to 120 737s at one time had been in service with Lufthansa and overall the Lufthansa 737 fleet has completed nearly 5.5 million landings.

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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