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Flashback Fridays--A Final Flight

blusk
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Unlike the past few “Flashback Fridays” post, this one is a bit more current—like today or maybe next week.  However, it still has historical value.  Today we say goodbye to a trusted member of our fleet as N680AA heads off on its final flight.  The timing of that is a bit uncertain because of the bad weather out west which has disrupted our Crews and our regular schedule.  Here is a picture of the 737 as it waits here in Dallas to take off on its final flight.  (If I am able, I will add photos of the last flight when that happens.)

 

My fellow geeks out there probably noticed the “AA” at the end of the aircraft’s registration.  Yes, that does stand for American Airlines, and it is their suffix of choice for their aircraft registrations.  So, how did a Southwest airplane, and a 737-300 at that, wind up with an American Airlines registration?  Therein lies the interesting part about this last flight.  This particular airplane started its career with AirCal (formerly Air California) on the West Coast back in 1986.  It is a 737-3A4 (manufacturer's serial number 23505) and flew with AirCal a short time before American acquired the carrier in July 1987.  For awhile it flew in a hybrid livery as shown below with the AirCal colors and “American” on the tail.  Bruce H. was kind enough to give us permission to use his AIRLINERS.NET photo that was taken at Los Angeles.

 

American finally put the aircraft in its all-metal trademark livery and reregistered the aircraft to N680AA in 1988.  The 737-300s were “’orphans” in American’s fleet of MD-80s, and Southwest acquired the aircraft in 1991.  Ironically, it wound up flying many of the same routes with us as it did with AirCal.  Joe Dillbeck, our Director Fleet Planning, tells me that in its faithful service to three airlines, this aircraft has accumulated 61, 726 flight cycles.  Soon it will complete its 61, 727th cycle and retire to the sun of the Arizona desert. 

 

Thanks to Bruce and Joe for the information and to N680AA for its dedicated service to our Customers.

16 Comments
Anonymous2194
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That's very cool Brian. I did not know that one or more SWA planes had lives in a "previous marriage". How many of your beautiful brides spent their best years, but not all their years, in service with you guys? And have any recent "retirees" gone on to serve other carriers, possibly overseas? Have a great weekend.
Anonymous4291
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Thanks for that interesting bit of history!
blusk
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JJG, back before the intro of the -300, we had quite a few -200s that had previous lives. Besides the old AA -300s, we have the Morris Air -300s, and we acquired a couple of the Western Pacific -300s (including the Simpson's airplane) when they went out of business. We have a couple of -700s that started with other operators, but the biggest majority of our fleet were acquired new directly from Boeing.
stove
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Hey Brian, When you retire a plane, how much of it it stripped to be used as parts/spares on other aircraft. Seats, bins, galley, etc. Just curious. Love these Flashback Friday's.
blusk
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Thanks for the comments about Flashback Fridays, Stove. There are a lot of reusable items on each airplane, and many of them can be reused safely, but not necessarily by us. Keep in mind that we have some leased aircraft and most we own. As to who gets what during the salvage process, my guess is that it would depend on the lease agreements and the storage/salvage contracts for the ones we own.
jeff-lipschultz
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Thanks for sharing these historical tidbits ... I was curious about how AA planes exactly found their way into the Southwest fleet when I flew on N679AA in October -- usually Southwest aircraft have SW, WN, or LV codes, which all seem to refer to the airline currently operating them...
David_R
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Next time you take a flight on Southwest look at the aircraft airworthiness certificate located above the door. If the aircraft model shown doesn't end in H4 then you are on an aircraft that started life with another airline. H4 is the customer number that Boeing assigned to Southwest. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Boeing_customer_codes for a list of Boeing customer codes. You can also get the model number by going to the FAA aircraft registry at http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/ In my case, I've ridden on several aircraft that started out life someplace else besides Southwest: N660SW B737-301 Piedmont Airlines (the original Piedmont) N690SW B737-3G7 America West N657SW B737-3L9 Maersk Air (a Danish airline) N317WN B737-3Q8 ILFC (A leasing company) N697SW B737-3T0 Texas Air Corp/Continental Airlines N308SA B737-3Y0 Guiness Peat Aviation (a leasing company; this is one of the few SWA aircraft I've flown more than once) In case you're wondering: Yes, I'm anal when it comes to tracking my airline flights. I have data on all of my flights going back to 1971. Smiley Happy
blusk
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Jeff, American wanted to get rid of the 737-300s because they didn't fit in their fleet plans and returned them to the lessor. We needed aircraft and leased them. David, we have very similar histories. I have been able to retroactively log my flights back to 1962, and started tracking registrations of the aircraft I have flown in at about the same time as you. Brian
warrio3634
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Hey Brian, I was wondering how many 300 series planes have been scrapped/retired/lease returned this year and what is going to happen in the next year. Also, have we been replacing them one-for-one with a 700 or is the perfect time to retire them due to the economy and non-growth within the company right now. Thanks! Justin - CSA BUF
jeff-lipschultz
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Thanks for all the info, Brian! Just out of curiosity...is there any particular reason a given plane gets the SW, WN, or LV suffix, or is it random?
blusk
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Jeff, I think we prefer WN, then SW, the LV. Sometimes our preferred choice for registrations is taken. Steve Heaser did a Red Belly Radio podcast interview with the person in charge of securing N-numbers for our fleet. Go to this page: http://www.blogsouthwest.com/podcast?page=14, and then click on "Mommy, Where Do Tail Numbers Come From?" which was posted on Jul 23, 2008.
sucrman
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Man for the good old days... Back when Herb and Colleen and the LUV Family really meant something. I have been flying SWA for over 15 years and have been a RR member darned near since it started. It is really sad that what Herb and Colleen worked so hard to build is being depleted on almost a daily basis with Gary Kelly's moneygrubbing program changes. I recently was sitting behind a senior SWA Captain and flight attendant deadheading home after a 4 day trip and he was speaking with the flight attendant about how things are going downhill since Herb's departure. I see it too, almost every day I am travelling with SWA. The folks just don't have the spirit any more. From the CSA's all the way to selling the RR credit Card Service to Chase Bank.... There was a great move..... I wonder if Garry Kelly realizes that Good Old Chase Bank has reduced the purchasing power of RR Credit card holders by over 358 MM dollars in the past 12 months by continually shearing back the CC holders credit limits.... atta boy "Gary" Great move. It is just sad and I miss the good old SWA LUV days.... peter J
millst1
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Brian.. I hope you can help me. I've found severa postings with my problem, but no answers anywhere. Can you give me any advice about Browser issues with accessing Southwest.com? No problem from work but takes hours to load at home on newest version of Firefox, and my IExplorer. Tho on an old version of AOL Browser, it works. Even if some part loads on the Firefox or Explorer I can rarely go further.. Any advice is appreciated.. PS- No experience with blogging so sorry if I'm showing bad manners for just inserting this in an unrelated posting..
blusk
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Millst1--I am sorry you are having trouble with southwest.com on your home computer. We normally don't post individual issues here, but I wanted to let you know that I have contacted some folks and have asked them to help you offline. peterj--I am sorry that you feel Southwest is losing its Spirit. I have been an SWA Employee for the same amount of time you have been flying with us, and it is true we have changed some things. After all Herb has told us "If you don't change, you die." However, our Culture is one thing we don't want to change. I will admit that there have been challenges along the way, but for the last year or so, I think our Culture has been the strongest in my 15 years with Southwest. We conduct a quarterly poll of our Employees about their feelings toward the Company, and we just complete this poll two weekis ago. More than half of our 35,000+ folks participated, and 95% answered that they were proud to work for Southwest. I challenge you to find another company, much less an airline, with that kind of Employee support.
airforcepilot19
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Hey Brian, I was reading how yall retire planes and scrap some of them, I am somewhat of an aviation enthusiast and I would like to buy a used Boeing 737 Southwest seat to put in my room. I heard yall did a program where yall sold seats to people off used planes, but you stopped. Is there anyway you can give me a contact where I can purchace a seat or from a third party? Thanks, Jesse
blusk
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Jesse, the seats we sold were the old lounge seating that we had on the -300 and -500. About the time we starting taking delivery of the 737-700, the FAA put out new impact requirements for seating, and the rear facing lounge seats couldn't meet this criteria. When we retrofitted our aircraft, we sold the lounge seats to Employees. Other than that, we don't have a program to sell used seats.