Southwest’s first 737-800 goes from green to Canyon Blue

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A first for Southwest
After its 11 day trip down the 737′s moving final assembly, Southwest Airlines’ first 737-800, the company’s first new 737 variant since 1997, is out in the open on the flight line at Renton Municipal Airport wearing the airline’s signature Canyon Blue colors. 
This aircraft, wearing registration N8301J and extended operations (ETOPS) tags, left the paint hangar about four days ago and will be the first of 33 delivered to the largest 737 customer in 2012. MORE PHOTOS
Along with the Boeing Sky Interior, the aircraft will also feature the airline’s new Evolve interior. For an airline known for its incremental DNA, the name Southwest has given to its new interior is quite fitting. 
APEX magazine editor-in-chief Mary Kirby explains the biggest small change:
However, the most profound changes have been reserved for Southwest’s seats. The carrier is retaining the B/E Aerospace-manufactured ‘Innovator II’ seat frames on its Southwest 737-700s, but will add fixed wing head rests; new, thinner, more durable foam fill; and lightweight E-Leather synthetic leather seat covers. It is also removing the under-seat floatation device  - and instead adding life vest pouches – to create a lower profile seat, which in turn creates weight savings of nearly six pounds per seat.

While the change will also accompany a 1in reduction in seat pitch from 32in to 31in, Southwest says it preserves the same amount of body space for each seat. More importantly, that single-inch change allows for an extra six seats per 737-700.
Because each seat is made lighter by nearly six pounds, Southwest shaves 635 pounds per aircraft (even with the extra row) and is expected to result in more than $10 million in ongoing annual cost savings. 
It is estimated that for every 500lbs of empty weight removed from a 100 to 200 seat aircraft equates to a roughly a 1% improvement in fuel burn. In this case, the 635lb savings in empty weight is traded by making room for six more 200lb paying passengers.
As near-term delivery slots are scarce with the added worldwide demand for narrowbody aircraft set to reach 84 deliveries per month split between Boeing and Airbus in 2013, Southwest is focusing its attention over the next two years to building its 737-800 fleet.
All of Southwest’s 2012 and 2013 deliveries from Boeing are for the larger 175-seat -800, a total of 74, though by the end of 2013, the airline will add the equivalent of 16 new 143-seat 737-700s during this same period without a single new -700 joining its fleet. Same 737-700 fleet, 2,300 more seats to sell.
The price tag for these 16 737-700s? A $60 million up front investment in Evolve, approximately the cost of two 737s (after discounts*).
Photo Credit Drew Ramsey

*According to Southwest’s most recent SEC 10K filing, the $2.14 billion investment in 74 737-800s delivered in 2012 and 2013 will cost the airline an average of $28.9 million each.