October 22, 2003

Boeing phases out the 757

Michael Jennings | Air Miscellany

Boeing has announced that production of the Boeing 757 will stop at the end of 2004, due to a lack of orders. (Or, as the Boeing press release euphemistically puts it, Boeing is to "complete production" of the 757).

The 757 is the largest narrow body passenger jet ever built. ("Narrow body is normally defined as "having a single aisle" with two or three passengers on each side of the aisle, and normally five or six passengers abreast in total. "Wide body" means having two aisles, and anything from seven to ten passengers across in total). The 757 was always a niche product rather than a mainstream product, and the story behind it is quite interesting.

In the 1970s, Boeing had three narrow body jet airliners on sale. The 707 was an aging 1950s long haul design for international routes, the 727 was a three engined domestic jet that seated about 150, and the 737 was a slightly smaller two engined aircraft that seated 100-130. By the mid 1970s, it was clear that two engined jets were the way of the future for all but the largest aircraft, and the 727 was phased out. Civil variants of the 707 were also phased out, although Boeing continued producing the aircraft for the US Air Force (mainly as an AWACS aircraft) until 1991.

In any event, Boeing introduced two new aircraft in the late 1970s to replace the 707 and 727. These were the 767 and 757. The 767 was the second widebody jet built by Boeing, after the 747. The 747 was a great achievement when it went into service in 1970, but it was far too big for many international routes. (It was allegedly as big as it was as much because of a deal done between Boeing boss Bill Allen and Pan Am boss Juan Trippe in the mid 1960s, both of who wanted to do something really impressive before retirement). Some of the market for 707s had been taken by 747s, but Boeing needed a smaller aircraft to offer for smaller routes (and to compete with the A300 being built by the new Airbus consortium), and the 767 fit the bill. The 767 became very popular for transatlantic routes, longer and busier domestic routes in the US, and for many of the less busy routes in Asia.

The 757 was intended to replace the 727, but for some reason Boeing got its market research wrong. Rather than building a 150 seat replacement for the 150 seat 727, Boeing made the 757 a 200 seater. As it happened, most of the airlines that were replacing their 727s didn't want a 200 seater, but wanted a 150 seater. Boeing did not immediately have one available, and this provided a market opening that was ultimately taken up by Airbus, who built the A320, and by McDonnell Douglas, who built a stretched version of the DC-9 called the MD-80. This was the market opening that allowed Airbus to move from a niche player in the airliner world to being clear number two in the 1990s, and to perhaps even be number one today. Boeing eventually filled this gap with a new 150 seat version of the 737, but a few years later.

Although it missed its intended market, the 757 was not a failure. This was largely because the engineers did a really good job, and the aircraft ended up having much longer range than it would have needed for the 727 replacement role. (On a British note, part of the reason for this is that the engine that Rolls-Royce designed for the 757, the RB211-535, turned out to be a superb piece of engineering). The aircraft also managed great fuel economy, although it was not especially comfortable for passengers. The aircraft also has perhaps the best safety record of any modern airliner, and does very well in "hot and high" conditions, where air conditions at the airport make landing tricky due to altitude or climate. It became extremely popular for European charter operators for both European and trans-Atlantic routes, and also very popular for US airlines operating coast to coast. This was a successful market niche, although not nearly as big a niche as would have been a genuine 727 replacement.

Today, the European charter business is becoming less important due to the rise of the discount airlines, which prefer smaller aircraft, Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s. Boeing has stretched the 737 even further, and the longest version, the 737-900, can hold up to 180 passengers anyway, which is close to the capacity of a 757. More modern materials and more efficient engines mean that the range of the latest 737 variants is much longer than the older variants, so the 757 no longer really wins on this score either. Unsurprisingly, many airlines have decided to operate a mixture of different 737 types rather than a mixture of 737s and 757s. And, on top of that, the market for new airliners has dried up in the post September 11 world. (And, very sadly, two of the hijacked aircraft, AA Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon, and UA Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County Pensylvania after passengers heroically attempted to take the plane back from the hijackers, were 757s).

Thus 757 production will be no more. The lower end of the market will be taken by the large 737s (or the Airbus A321) and the higher end will be taken by the new technology Boeing 7E7, which is on the drawing board and which will probably be renamed the 787 if it goes into production, which is looking close to certain. Boeing also intends that the 7E7 will replace the civilian 767. The 767 production line is safe for the moment, as the type has replaced the 707 as the US Air Force's favourite plane for assorted military utility jobs. There is an AWACS variant of that one in service, and the USAF is also expected to order around 100 soon to be used as tankers. As long as the production line is open, the aircraft will no doubt still be offered to civilian customers. And there are also freighter versions. (Production lines can often be kept open for a long time for these sorts of purposes. The Airbus A300 first flew in 1969, and there have been essentially zero passenger versions sold in the last decade. As a freight aircraft, the plane continues to sell and sell, however. Narrow body types don't seem to work so well as freighters, and the production lines seem to close once the passenger market dries up).

In any event, it will be sad to see 757 production close, as the aircraft is one of the few that has a really distinct look in this day and age of aircraft that all look the same. The aircraft, with its long, narrow fuselage, and its big wing with two fat engines underneath has long been affectionately nicknamed the "praying mantis".

Of course, we will see them around the airports of the world for decades yet.

Trackbacks

Boeing ending production of the 757
I’m not a huge aviation buff, but growing up around the Air Force it’s hard not to at least have some passing interest in the...
Signifying Nothing on October 22, 2003

A Choice Buffet
TransportBlog has an informative post on the “completion” of the Boeing 757. [Link via Signifying Nothing] Also at Signifying Nothing, Chris Lawrence hits the mark squarely in his assessment of the various Star Trek series. I haven't watched ...
Signal + Noise on October 23, 2003

Comments

Yes, sad to see the end of the "stick insect". It seems to have been operating the Scotland to London shuttle forever. One of its advantages was a nearly identical cockpit to that of the 767 thus saving on crew training costs. This is something that Airbus has taken up in a big way.

Posted by David Farrer on October 22, 2003

The 757 is also used by various Air Forces around the world (often for VIP and general transport). One reason that the RNZAF got two (second-hand)was because they have the range and short-field performance to cart around the leaders of small Pacific Island countries. Another reason was that they were expected to be in civilian service for some time, making maintenance cheaper (see USAF issues with C-135s now B707s are rare).

Posted by Errol Cavit on October 22, 2003

This is an interesting commentary, but it is wrong when it asserts that the 757 had too great a seat capacity, leaving a gap in the approx 150 seat sized plane part of the market which Airbus moved to exploit.

Consider these facts and dates :

(a) The 727-200 had a seat capacity of 189-200 in an all coach configuration, not 150 as this writer claims.

(b) The 727-200 ceased manufacture in 1984.

(c) The 757-200 had a seat capacity of 214-239 in an all coach configuration, and first flew commercially on 1 Jan, 1983.

(d) Filling the 150 seater 'gap' was the 737-300, which had a capacity of 149 seats, and which first flew commercially in Dec 1984.

(e) Airbus' first plane of similar size was the A320, holding 164-179 pax in one class, and this did not deploy into commercial service until 1988.

(f) Within a few months of the A320 starting commercial service, so too did the B737-400, with a capacity of 168 seats.

There was no gap at any time, and during this period Airbus never had a plane configuration that wasn't matched by Boeing at the same time (or earlier).

Note that I'm not saying this to defend Boeing - I am, in fact, quite a strident critic of Boeing as my present four part series on the company and its troubles will testify to (see www.TheTravelInsider.Info/2003/boeing1.htm). But I do think the record here needs to be corrected.

David.

Posted by David Rowell on December 18, 2003

Permalink
 
 IN BRIEF

November 23, 2004

'Captain commuter' wins Sydney a free day on the trains ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Darling's saver ticket for slow-train Britain - he's going to do everything but close them ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 21, 2004

Tollroads Jamaican style - worth it if only for the pic of the toll plaza ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 20, 2004

Postive externalities come to DC - sort of ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Railways safer than ever - says Christian Wolmar ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Is graffiti art? - LFTTR think the question misses the point. FWIW I think many artists clearly have a lot of talent and it's a shame they don't have an appropriate, nay, legal outlet. ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Book review - Subterranean Railway by Christian Wolmar ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

One airline, 4 crashes, 8 dead: the real price of sugar snap peas in November ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 17, 2004

British Transport Films Collection DVD Volume One - Surely a must for any transport afficionado. It will be released just in time for Christmas. ...link
MH | Comments (0)
November 15, 2004

Crossrail website ...link
MH | Comments (0)
November 11, 2004

Brake fault forces Virgin to cut speed on flagship tilting trains - you know, just for once it sounds as if the HSE could be right ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 08, 2004

TV Alert "When trains crash", 1930 Channel 5 tonight. Talk about timing ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
November 07, 2004

Ufton Nervet crash - 6 now confirmed dead ...link
PCCC | Comments (4)
November 06, 2004

One person dead as train derails ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 04, 2004

FirstGroup wants to add the tracks to its trains - that's brave ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 02, 2004

Car charge to rise to £6 ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 30, 2004

Psst wanna buy a railway station? ...link
MH | Comments (0)
October 26, 2004

'Kart Vader' - He tears around Quebec City at 100mph. In a go kart. At night. Wearing black. And he films it. Spotted by Jay Jardine. ...link
MH | Comments (0)
October 24, 2004

The downside of auto-mobile bans - drivers text instead ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Councils ban shrines to road crash victims - a story that neatly combines both transport and the issue of the day: mawkish sentimentality ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 20, 2004

The air hostess, the long hair and the sun roof - one of the more imaginative ways of staying awake at the wheel. ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Wheelchair-using MP travelled in 'cattle truck' - so, that's just the same as the rest of us then ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

23 escape from burning train ...link
PCCC | Comments (3)

Wikipedia accuracy under fire - so, it's back on with the Glossary? ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 19, 2004

Rail chief quits after four months - walking away from £130,000. Golly ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 14, 2004

New comment on old posting - Tim Hall explains the story of the Highland Railway, its new locos and its soon-to-be-ex-Chief Mechanical engineer ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Out now: DVD version of leaves on the line ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 13, 2004

New link - Transport Watch UK. Lots of facts, lot of comparisons. Doesn't look good for rail ...link
PCCC | Comments (4)
October 11, 2004

Take the car and save the planet - walking kills, apparently ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Hybrids better than the real thing - golly ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Don't invest in mega-projects - says Peter Gordon ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 05, 2004

Prescott backs plan to reopen branch rail lines - well, he says he does ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
October 04, 2004

New Glossary Entry - the Advanced Passenger Train ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 03, 2004

People are building their own speed cameras - One fellow is even selling fully functioning ones ...link
MH | Comments (0)

Pendolinos and Voyagers may prove to be one of privatisation's disasters - says Christian Wolmar ...link
PCCC | Comments (11)

Omedetō gozaimasu! - Tech Central Station on the 40th anniversary of the Shinkansen ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 02, 2004

Compulsory purchase to go - in US? Johnathan Pearce has some musings ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 01, 2004

Indian railway runs out of wheels - because it refuses to import ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

All for sprawl - Tyler Cowen links to a couple of articles including one from the NY Times magazine which is attracting a lot of attention ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Underground maps as art - according to Brian ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 30, 2004

Recent comment - Uncle Roger on the difficulty in working out accurate subsidy figures ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Europe by train - Tim Hall on Stephen Karlson's adventures ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Carpool lanes = communist gulags - Tim Hall is beginning to get it, possibly ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 29, 2004

P&O axes 1,200 jobs as ferry travel sails into past ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
September 27, 2004

Hurtling towards a £7.6bn bill at full tilt - Alistair Osborne on the WCRM fiasco. Actually, I thought £7.6bn was on the low side ...link
PCCC | Comments (2)
September 26, 2004

A double-decked shame - RJ3 laments the passing of the Routemaster. It's those EU bastards, I tell you ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Tilting trains are rubbish - according to Ross Clark. Now he tells us ...link
PCCC | Comments (2)

Delays plummet by 28% - says Network Rail ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 25, 2004

New glossary item - the Health and Safety Executive - in which I demonstrate my almost complete ignorance of this institution ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Scant improvement in train times - according to latest figures ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 22, 2004

EU plan will hit safe women drivers - and it's all in the name of sex equality ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Unions gang up to demand railway renationalisation - they mean it isn't already? ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
September 21, 2004

Top car makers support road-jam charging - Ford, GM, Honda, Daimler ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Journey times cut as 125mph tilting train sets record - after £8bn and the odd bankruptcy tilting trains that actually tilt are finally here ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 18, 2004

ABD calls for environmental audit of public transport - all those particulates ...link
PCCC | Comments (2)

Camera Partnerships must come clean on real causes of accidents - says ABD ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 16, 2004

The Green Quadratic - ASI paper on planning from 1988. Now available on-line ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 14, 2004

Up with conductors - they're really good, you know ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Speeding Britons fined in car race to Spain - "Among the cars were Ferraris, Porsches and Rolls-Royces." ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

MPs to lose free airport parking - oh, how my heart bleeds ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

The case against driving licences - Paul Clark in Lew Rockwell ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 10, 2004

Drivers trade privacy for insurance discounts ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 08, 2004

Free mints infuriate delayed commuters - some even threw them away, ingrates ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Privatize the roads! Liberate the streets! All we have to lose are our parking tickets! - Anthony Gregory in Lew Rockwell ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

M6 Toll hits 10m journey mark - er, about a month ago ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 07, 2004

California high-speed rail plan - all sorts of claims being made but Peter Gordon doesn't like the precedents ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 06, 2004

Swedish farmer fined 1,211 kronor for illegally parking a snowmobile in Warwick - Krister Nylander lives 205 north of Stockholm and has never been to Warwick. "They can wait till Hell freezes over and I can get to Britain on my snowmobile to pay the fine.” ...link
MH | Comments (0)
September 05, 2004

"Obsession is not too strong a word to describe how railway enthusiasts feel about railways" - Matthew Parris goes to Peru and meets some trainspotters ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 03, 2004

Hidden costs do not justify the level of tax on petrol in Britain - says Graham Seargeant ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Shovelling cash - utilities to pay for digging up roads ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Alistair Morton, builder of the Channel Tunnel, is dead ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Government 'willed' Railtrack to fail - says Corbett ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Cyclists saddled with seafront speed trap - in Bournemouth ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Historic Amsterdam tram photos Aaaah. Where's amg going to pitch up next? ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Why so little US electrification? - Tim Hall ponders the answer ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 02, 2004

London Underground Map - as it really is. ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Electric v steam - in 1923. But who won ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Freight or passenger in the US? - they're in conflict. Stephen Karlson considers the options ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 01, 2004

Fares and charge up in London - says Livingstone ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

'Fair fines' planned for speeding drivers ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Railtrack is cleared over Hatfield crash ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 31, 2004

Thousands 'ready to quit Aslef' - where would we be without brotherly love ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 30, 2004

Rural watchdog attacks road sign blight - See it's not just me who can't abide the avalanche of street furniture. ...link
MH | Comments (0)

What the traffic will bear - Bob Poole discusses the merits of tolling ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Prague trams - photos. Aaah ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 24, 2004

What if you can't drive? - Catallarchy's Sean Lynch considers the options ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

97% of accidents within speed limit - according to the ABD ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
August 22, 2004

Prosecute motorway lane hogs - says RAC ...link
PCCC | Comments (3)
August 20, 2004

Radio tags for congestion charge? ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

World's longest road opens - in Russia ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Sprawl is cheap - says Iain Murray ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
August 19, 2004

Strike threat to BA and Eurostar ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Toll roads are safer - at least according to my reading of this Marginal Revolution post ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Peking metro to hit 1000km mark - I'm not sure even London's is that long ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 15, 2004

Squander Two calmly talks about speed cameras ...link
MH | Comments (1)

Parking anarchy in St Albans - Police withdraw traffic wardens, Herts council won't have any until October, it's bedlam! ...link
MH | Comments (0)

The future of transport - as seen from the past ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Trains less efficient than cars - yes, I know, it's old news ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Ferry solution, please - Eamonn Butler wonders how you could introduce competition to a subsidised ferry service in the Western Isles ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 14, 2004

Drink less, speed less, save on insurance - Marginal Revolution has the story ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)