Following excerpt on this subject from a 1991 history of Boeing titled "Legend & Legacy" by Robert Serling who has written many excellent books on airlines and aviation.
"The DC-9 head start was a killer for Boeing's sales force, yet it
wasn't the only handicap Boeing's new baby faced in its adolescence.
A deep hole was dug by the men who would fly the plane, and unwittingly
it was Delta's pilots who handed their brethren the shovel that almost
buried the 737. When Delta bought the DC-9, it won an agreement from its
pilots that the cockpit be designed for a two-man crew, eliminating the
flight engineer. This was permissible under an FAA regulation that
allowed any jet transport weighing less than 80,000 lbs to be flown by two
pilots. Both the original DC-9 and BAC-111 met the so-called '80,000-pound
rule,' heresy and anathema to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
It could do nothing about the precedent Delta's pilots had set for the
DC-9, but the union began pressuring the FAA to change the regulation for
the 737, and at the same time warned US airlines planning to buy the
Boeing jet that future pilot contracts would specify a three-man crew for
"ALPA argued that with no flight engineer to help them, the pilots'
increased workload made it difficult to watch out for other traffic, thus
enhancing the chances for mid-air collisions, and also created more
danger during bad-weather landings. The union's case might have sounded
logical until one began wondering why a two-man crew was safe for the DC-9
and BAC-111, and not for the 737. Nevertheless, the FAA changed its
regulations to the extent of requiring Boeing to prove that the 737
could be operated safely with two pilots. The irony was that once having
been certificated for a two-man crew, three subsequent larger DC-9
models weighing far more than 80,000 pounds also were automatically
certificated for two pilots, but not the 737.
"Thus the baby Boeing's late start was saddled with a further sales han-
dicap--many airlines considering the 737 bought the DC-9 instead,
unwilling to add the expense of a third cockpit crew member who literally
was nothing except an extra set of eyeballs. United and Western,
after arbitration, agreed to a three-man crew, although that third
man was a classic case of feather-bedding--or 'feather birding,' as
then-FAA administrator Najeeb Halaby expressed it.
"Western's pilots referred to the extra crew member as GIBs, for 'Guy
in Back,' but abandoned this nomenclature hastily when a pilot ran
across the word 'gib' in a dictionary and discovered it meant castrated
"Lew Wallick once asked a Piedmont captain what the third crew member did,
riding in a jump seat just behind the pilots, unable to reach any controls.
"'He doesn't do much,' the captain admitted. 'He sits back there and
spills coffee in my brainback [nickname for the briefcase holding air-
way maps and aircraft manuals]. But come next summer, he's gonna mow my
"Brien Wygle was in charge of the 737's flight test program, and worked
with engineering to design a cockpit whose workload would put the least
possible stress on two pilots.
"'We went to a lot of trouble proving this out,' Wygle said. 'We didn't
have much computer input--they weren't as sophisticated then--but we
designed a simple cockpit management system because the FAA told us that
when we came up for certification, they were going to be very tough. They
were under great pressure from ALPA, which wanted the FAA to say that
the 737 needed a flight engineer or any third crew member.'
"'The FAA made us jump through a lot of hoops,' Wygle recalled. 'There
was an unprecedented amount of testing, all kinds of simulated engine and
systems failures, low-visibility approaches and landings, and even test
flights through high-density traffic on the eastern seaboard. And to the
FAA's credit, they ruled that the 737 was completely safe to fly with a
"The ruling, however, couldn't recoup the sales Boeing had already lost
because of the ALPA campaign; the union itself eventually came around to
admitting that a sophisticated, well-designed cockpit didn't need a flight
engineer. And in one sense, ALPA did the 737 a
favor. It forced Boeing to improve the plane to the point where it would
be so good it didn't matter how many men were in the cockpit."
[Edited 2008-07-25 20:43:21]