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Boeing employees surround the 10,000th 737 jet to be produced. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing 737 jets are rolling out of the factory in Renton, Wash., more than once a day, but the Southwest 737 MAX 8 jet that emerged today brought hundreds of Boeing employees outside to watch: It’s the 10,000th 737 jet to be produced.

The occasion was marked by the Guinness World Records’ renewed recognition of the 737 as the world’s most produced commercial jet aircraft model — and by a pep talk from Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ president and CEO.

“This incredible milestone is a testament to the work we do every day to build the most reliable and efficient single-aisle airplane in the world,” McAllister said. “It represents more than 50 years of success and achievement on the part of thousands of Boeing employees past and present, our supplier partners, and our airline customers around the globe who put their confidence in the 737.”

Southwest Airlines marked the occasion as well, by making a $10,000 contribution to Boeing’s employee community fund. (For what it’s worth, the average list price of a 737 MAX 8 is $117.1 million.)

The first production 737 made its first flight in 1967 and is now on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Boeing’s best-known single-aisle passenger jet has gone through several design iterations since then, culminating in four different variants of the super-efficient 737 MAX. Depending on the configuration, passenger capacity can range from 138 to 230 seats.

Guinness first awarded the “most produced” title to the 737 back in 2006 when the 5,000th airplane rolled out of the Renton factory. In other words, it’s taken Boeing only 12 years to build as many of the planes as it did during the first 39 years of the 737’s existence.

“The speed at which Boeing achieved this new milestone is very impressive,” Michael Empric, official adjudicator for Guinness World Records, said in a news release. “We are excited to once again recognize the 737 and the important role it plays in commercial aviation.”

It’s not all smooth sailing ahead: Boeing’s 737 MAX line is facing stiff competition from Airbus, which delivered the 8,000th plane in its A320 line jet family last month and has a backlog of more than 6,000 A320 orders. Boeing’s backlog for the 737 program, meanwhile, amounts to more than 4,600 orders.

Both companies are scrambling to keep up. Boeing is producing 47 of the 737s per month in Renton, plans to up the monthly rate to 52 later this year, and could eventually go to 63 or more. Airbus is said to be targeting an A320 production rate of 60 to 70 per month.

All this suggests that Guinness will have to prepare for a 15,000-plane update in the 2020s. But who’ll get there first: Boeing or Airbus?

More stats about the 737 from Boeing:

  • A 737 takes off or lands every 1.5 seconds.
  • On average, more than 2,800 737s are in the air at any given time.
  • More than 22 billion passenger trips have been taken on a 737.
  • In all, Boeing 737 jets have flown a total of 122 billion miles — the equivalent of 16 trips to Pluto and back, plus pit stops.
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