Six Reasons Why Boeing Faces Hard Choices In Replacing The 757

A Delta 757 on approach. Credit: Motohide Miwa from USA.

Boeing, which recently rolled out wide body 777s and 787s plus has the new 737 MAX, is contemplating a mid-size narrow-body aircraft. Boeing stopped making 757s over a decade ago and Boeing will be facing competition from Airbus in terms of mid-size aircraft that have improved fuel efficiency.

Commercial airlines seek aircraft that allow them to grow their bottom line. Capacity, cargo, fuel efficiency and ease of maintenance are all factors when an airline is considering spending billions to upgrade its fleet.

The 777/787 class of Boeings will be the replacements for the venerable 747 and the 737 will continue to be the workhorse of short-range hops. What Boeing needs to compete with Airbus is a mid-range single-aisle aircraft that will have the passenger capacity (220 to 280 seats), range and efficiency that will make it a must have for airlines.

Here are six reasons why Boeing will be challenged to find a design to replace the 757, which came on line in the early 1980s.

1.) Long legs for make unique routes possible

The 757’s passenger capacity makes it the perfect plane to fly “long-thin routes.” For instance, from the East coast smaller airports in Europe. As a single aisle plane, it can carry up to 290 passengers and has a range of 4,000 miles. And because it’s a narrow body, it doesn’t weigh as much, thus incurring lower landing fees. It can serve long-range routes that have lower traffic or it can frequently fly on busy routes.

2.) Powerful engines provide excellent performance

The 757s in service are equipped with powerful turbofan engines (depending on the airline, they’re either Rolls Royce or Pratt &Whitney). They’re relatively fuel efficient but their muscle is a favorite of pilots. The 757 has no problem operating in high, hot and heavy conditions.  They can also easily takeoff from short runways with tough noise restrictions.

3.) Common type rating with the Boeing 767

At the time Boeing was designing the narrow-body 757, it was also developing the wide body 767 (the general public would have a tough time discerning between the two aircraft.) Because of many shared features, pilots can obtain a type rating that allows them to fly both. That’s obviously a boon to airlines when it comes to scheduling the two-man crews who fly the 757.

4.) The Plane is Still Relatively Efficient

The 757 still delivers an acceptable bang for the buck in terms of fuel efficiency, especially with low fuel prices right now. The aircraft’s range and fuel usage was improved in 2005 when Boeing was cleared to add winglets that helped reduce drag. That increased the fuel efficiency by five percent and added 200 miles in range.

5.) It ages well (and Avgeeks still think it’s sexy)

If you polled commercial pilots about the plane they love flying the most, the 757 would probably come in at the top of the list. Its sleek design along with its powerful engines gives a pilot more than enough muscle. In some ways, it’s like driving an SUV that performs like a sports car. The blunt nose reduces air noise around the cockpit, the large tail fin is pleasing to the eye and the long landing gear – to accommodate those big engines, gives the 757 an elegant look when it’s on the ground.

6.) Design and demand

Boeing’s decision will be a tricky one going forward. The cost of designing a replacement for the 757 could be prohibitive especially when Boeing isn’t certain of the market demand. Will it be worth designing a state-of-the-art mid-size aircraft that won’t sell enough to make a profit?