This blog post is going to be a bit of a nerdout session for my fellow aviation enthusiasts. I’m on my way to Paris and chose to fly Icelandair this time, namely because they had a smoking hot deal on flights ($602 including taxes, roundtrip in Business Class ($1 upgrade)), and secondly because this will probably be the last time I fly on a Boeing 757 (they’re nearing extinction), my second favorite airplane behind the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
I’m actually cruising right now at 35000 feet over the middle of the ocean on my way from Vancouver to Reykjavík. I just finished a fantastic steak dinner with some delicious Icelandic beer! Icelandair prides themselves with quality service, gate to gate wifi, and friendly staff. They charge a fraction of what the big guys charge for flights to Europe, allow up to a 7 day pitstop in Iceland free of charge, and their seats are just as comfortable in Economy Class, and almost as comfortable in Business Class.
Why is the Boeing 757 my favorite aircraft? A few things; one being that it is quite stunning of an aircraft to look at, the interior is spacious, and the cabin is very comfortable. It has that big aircraft feel, without actually being a widebody aircraft. I also absolutely love the sound of the Rolls Royce RB211 engines, especially when they’re spooled up for takeoff. They sound powerful and agressive.
The Boeing 757 dates all the way back to 1981, before I was even born. It was designed and produced alongside Boeing’s larger sister plane, the Boeing 767. The two airplanes were jointly designed to reduce costs, and both were Boeing’s first two-crew memeber class cockpit airplane. Having two crew-member’s instead of three would shave running costs down significantly. The Boeing 767 was an immediate success with airlines because it had the passenger carrying capabilities, the size, and the range that airlines needed. It could fly short haul and long haul routes. The Boeing 757’s potential wasn’t realized until much later on. Sales were fairly slow until the early 1990’s and then all dried up by 2005. Boeing stopped production this year, with 1049 being built. Overall though it was considered a successful project.
So why wasn’t it’s potential realized until later on? It was a narrow body airliner with two engines and impressive range (nearly 4000 nautical miles), so on paper it seemed great, but there was one catch. When the airplane was first concieved the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) didn’t allow for anything less than three engines to be more than 120 minutes away from land, forcing airlines to take the long way round when hoping the ocean, and this wasn’t good for their bottom line. In fact most Boeing 757’s ended up being run on only domestic runs for the first eight years of their life, with few ever making Transatlantic or Transpacific flights.
That all changed in 1988 when the FAA allowed 180 minute ETOPS (Extended Operations) for twin-engined airplanes. The Boeing 757 sales started picking up, but the potential of this airliner was still not recognized. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that airlines started to realize the potential of this airline on long and thin routes. All the other airliners were either too big, or didn’t have the range required to do long Transatlantic and Transpacific flights, but the Boeing 757 was perfect to produce a profit on these routes.
The problem now is that many of these airframes are over 30 years old and many airframes are at the age where they have to be retired. There is no direct replacement for the Boeing 757 at the moment. The Airbus A321LR and the Boeing 737 MAX 10 barely have the same range and the same capacity, but they’re missing a few key components; engine power, cargo capacity, large cargo container handling, comfort, etc. This is leaving many airlines pushing the life of these Boeing 757’s even further, with some airlines saying they’re going to run them for atleast another 10 years. This will make some nearly 40 years old when they retire.
Boeing or Airbus need to get the ball rolling on a replacement for the Boeing 757, and fast. It’s estimated another 4000 airframes will be required in the next 20 years to fill the gap the Boeing 757 will be leaving, and the ever growing market is requiring. My heart is with Boeing aircraft, so I hope Boeing comes up with a solution that’s better than Airbus’s solution, and quicker!
Stay tuned for my next blog post, which I’ll be writing about my first days experiences in Paris.