In aviation and in life, we love to commemorate firsts and lasts. This past weekend, Southwest Airlines retired their fleet of Boeing 737-300s and two days later inaugurated service with the new Boeing 737-8MAX jet. Our friend and Southwest Pilot Herb Jackson had the opportunity to fly both. We chatted with him about his amazing experience.
Herb, you flew one of the last Southwest 737-300 flights ever. How do you feel about that?
When the opportunity presented itself to fly a Classic to Victorville I put my name in the hat and was selected to fly one from Houston. It’s one of those things that doesn’t occur very often so for me I wanted to participate in a bit of aviation history. I began my career back in April of 1986. The the company I was working for at the time had just begun accepting 737-300 deliveries so I remember when this plane was first placed into service. At that time there was no way I could imagine me flying one of the last ones to the desert.
2.) Tell us about the flight. How is a flight to the boneyard different than a normal flight?
Well logistically there is the aspect of ground handling and transportation, but in terms of the flight, nothing too different. It’s operated under Part 91 and it’s a ferry flight with only the assigned crew allowed onboard. Our Operations control center does a great job in providing us with anything we need and the group at Victorville was top notch. They are well versed in all aspects of aircraft storage.
3.) Will you miss flying the 737-300?
Hmm I’ll have to let you know that in a few years. The -300 was a great airplane to “hand fly” felt nice. But like your old flip phone, technology has made them less desirable and efficient.
4.) What’s your favorite memory of flying the 737-300?
Well considering my first landing ever at Southwest was in a -300, at SAN, my first landing as a Captain on UOE was in a -300, in SEA, and my first landing on my own as a Captain was also in a -300, also at SAN, I’d say the airplane has left me with some of the best memories of my aviation career.
5.) Is there anything you won’t miss about the 737-300 ‘Classic’?
As I mentioned earlier technology has improved so much that the “80’s” style technology in the -300 made it less desirable to fly as time went by. No auto throttles, the air conditioning system was taxed on very hot days, no WiFi for the customers, and you had to work harder to maintain your situational awareness.
6.) After dropping off the -300, you then flew the MAX just a couple of days later. How did the two compare?
Talk about a rare occurrence!! I’m one of a few who were afforded that opportunity and I must say it’s been an emotional last few days. The bittersweet retirement of the 300’s followed by operating the MAX on day one. What really amazed me was the excitement that surrounded both events. I can’t tell you how many “avgeeks” and plane spotters I ran into over the last few days. Their enthusiasm is contagious and it’s enlightening to see the passion they have for aviation. These folks go out of their way to attend these events. Meeting them and seeing the excitement in their faces and hearing how they flew all over, on their own time, to be apart of it all. That’s what makes occasions like these special. I’m very fortunate to “fly” the plane but don’t think for a second I don’t appreciate those who make flying “cool”!