Higher, Faster, Farther: 1970-1996

The Boeing Company ... The Dash and the 737

For five years, Boeing owned DeHavilland of Canada, builder of a series of popular short-range turboprop airliners, buying the company from the Canadian government in 1986.

Between 1986 and 1991, the company produced 844 Dash 6, 111 Dash 7 and 366 Dash 8 airplanes. Boeing then sold the company to Bombardier of Canada.

In the United States, on the commercial side by 1987, the 737 was the most-ordered plane in commercial history. In January 1991, 2,887 737s were on order and models 737-300, -400 and -500 were in production.

By 1993, customers had ordered 3,100 737s, and the company was developing the Next-Generation 737s -- the -600, -700, -800 and -900.

The 737 also was used to test new technologies for NASA. In 1972, NASA wanted a research airplane to improve operations for commercial transports. It selected the original prototype Boeing 737. Modification included a second, experimental cockpit in the forward part of the main cabin that contained the advanced electronic displays and digital flight controls that Boeing had developed for the Supersonic Transport. The NASA 737 began its career at the Langley Research Center in Virginia as a transport systems research vehicle May 17, 1974.

For the next 25 years, the NASA 737 incorporated upgrades in experimental equipment to keep pace with the rapid developments in computer technology. Its role testing CRT display formats and demonstrating their benefits in a transport aircraft environment helped gain acceptance for the "glass cockpit" concept, later used in the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It helped develop satellite systems. The 737 tests, starting in 1990, established that a GPS receiver, integrated with an inertial reference unit, was accurate enough to be used as a landing aid for returning space vehicles, such as the space shuttle or an emergency crew rescue craft.

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