Icelandair use 757s to connect their hub in Reykjavik to European and North American Destinations - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Icelandair use 757s to connect their hub in Reykjavik to European and North American destinations – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter

What has been the most talked about aircraft as of late in aviation circles?  I would have to say it is the Boeing 757 — an aircraft that seems irreplaceable.  This aircraft is beloved by some, hated by others, and yet so many people have flown them, no matter where you are from (unless you are Australian, then it’s going to be rare).  I can remember the first time I saw a 757 (Royal New Zealand Air Force at Avalon Airshow); I can also remember my first flight on a 757  (United P.S from JFK to LAX). I’ve got so many wonderful memories of the 757 that I wanted to take a little trip down memory lane and bring you all along with me.

One of Allegiant Air's Boeing 757s (N902NV) while still in Everett, WA.

One of Allegiant Air’s Boeing 757s (N902NV) while still in Everett, WA – Photo: David Parker Brown

 The Boeing 757 was the last clean-sheet narrow-body aircraft to come out of the Seattle area.  The aircraft was produced in Renton and, much like myself, the 757 was an 80’s baby.  Rolled out on January 13, 1982, it took flight just over a month later on February 19th. Deliveries of the 757-200 began in December 1982, less than a year after roll-out, with the launch customer being Eastern Air Lines for North America (since dissolved and now reappeared) and British Airways for Europe.  The aircraft was last delivered in 2004, after over 22 years of production.  The final aircraft was delivered to Shanghai Airlines, giving the 757 family a total of 1,050 of the type.

A Boeing 757 in Aer Lingus livery - Photo: Philip Debski

Aer Lingus uses 757s across the Atlantic on their East Coast routes – Photo: Philip Debski

The 757 has the ability to carry 250+ passengers (although it is rarely configured that densely) for 3,900nm, which means it has transatlantic ability.  A 767 (or its replacement, the 787) could easily do that range, but with quite a few empty seats on lower demand routes. The 737-900ER could maybe do that distance, but certainly not with so many passengers.  With nice powerful engines and a hefty wing, the 757 can handle short-field or high-altitude take-offs.

It has a two-person flight deck, one of the first airliners to no longer need a flight engineer.  It also had compatibility with the wide-body 767, so crews could get a quick conversion-type certificate, saving money for the airlines.

During its production run, almost all the major US, European and Asian airlines added the 757 to their fleet. The aircraft became the workhorse of some airlines, and they are still flying today.  The aircraft design was so popular that other planes were built that had many striking similarities — we are talking to you Tupolev Tu-204.

The first airline to receive the freighter version of the 757 was UPS - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

The first airline to receive the freighter version of the 757 was UPS – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter

The 757 came in three varieties: the 757-200, the -200 Freighter, and the stretched 757-300 (or as I like to call it, the plane that looks like it goes on forever).  The 757-200, which was the most prolifically-ordered at almost 900 versions of the type, was the aircraft that you could see at just about any major US airport.  It looks are distinctive, with the high ground clearance and the fact that there was a boarding door just forward of the wings.

Door 2L was the most commonly used to get passengers onboard, so it was always nice to turn left into first class, something that is rare on a narrow-body aircraft (or even some wide-bodies). The stretched -300 was the longest narrow-body aircraft ever produced at 178 ft, which is roughly the same size as an olympic swimming pool (plus a meter or two for the diving blocks).  Although it could seat roughly an extra 50 people, it had a tradeoff – less range.

British Airways was the first European airline to operate the 757 - Photo: Ken Fielding

British Airways was the first European airline to operate the 757 – Photo: Ken Fielding

The 757 was not only popular with the airlines, but it was also a hit with freight companies all over the world. It could have been produced as a dedicated freighter, a combi, or as a military transport.  The first 757 ever built is now a test aircraft for military research programs and sits idle at Boeing Field.  The US Air Force picked up a number of 757s (designated the C-32) and uses them as VIP transports (often flying as Air Force Two or ferrying around the Secretary of State).

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) even uses a 757 Combi as its VIP & Troop Transport.  Ever want to see how capable a 757 is — just watch the RNZAF demo their aircraft.

The aging C-32A is used to ferry around the Vice President and had a few issues in 2014 that caused its passengers to have to fly commercial.

The US Air Force took delivery of a number of Boeing 757s and designated them the C-32.  They are used for VIP Transport.

But the 757 will not be destined for the skies forever.  The airlines have started to retire their fleets in favor of more fuel-efficient aircraft.  The Boeing 737-900ER has been one of these and so has the Airbus A321.  But these aircraft may have range or passenger capacity, but not both.

British Airways was the first European airline to take delivery of the 757; they had the last of their aircraft operate a commercial flight in November 2010, and slowly but surely the US airlines have phased them out too — Delta even put one in their museum!

BONUS: Will 757s Stop Flying Soon? Airbus Launches New A321neoLR

The 757 did get some reprieve in 2009, when they got permission to retrofit blended winglets to the aircraft, giving them an extra 5% fuel efficiency and around 200 additional miles in distance.  Although not much, it was enough for airlines to keep them around for a bit longer.

There are airlines, like Icelandair, that are mostly successful due to the 757. “The Boeing 757, with its range and reliability, has been a perfect fit for our network and will remain an integral part of Icelandair,” Michael Raucheisen, Marketing & Communications for Icelandair explained to AirlineReporter. But he also knows that they cannot fly forever and they are looking at other options. “In 2018, we look forward to adding new 737 -800 and 737-900 MAX’s, with many of the same qualities of the 757.  These new aircraft will be a great complement our already exclusively Boeing fleet and help to expand our growing network.”

A United 757-300, the Aircraft that never ends - Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

A United 757-300, the aircraft that never ends.  I will forever miss this aircraft when they finally leave the skies

Despite the nostalgia, the death knell seems to have sounded as newer, far more fuel-efficient aircraft come knocking at the door.  The 737-9MAX and the A321NeoLR lead the charge to replace the 757.  I, for one, will be sorry the day they disappear.  Gone will be the sight of that tall aircraft, which a lowered flight deck, that has become so iconic.  I will miss the 757, but until they are finally gone, I will still enjoy flying on them.

CORRESPONDENT - SEATTLE, WA. Mal is an Australian native who has been a huge fan of airlines and aviation and currently works in airport-related operations. Email: [email protected]

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30 Comments

As much as I can respect and appreciate the 757 as an aircraft, it’s frequently been a miserable ride as a passenger. Airlines (particularly UA) always found a way to make it as uncomfortable as possible in coach, stretched it’s range far beyond what it was intended (US to Europe!?!?!), and it never fared turbulence well. Sitting right over the landing gears on a rough landing always felt like the plane was digging a trench in the runway with the gears. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this, but I am NOT sorry to see the 757 go.

(That and why is everyone assuming they’ll be gone soon?!?! Delta’s going to keep at least 75+ around for some time).

I have never had a comfortable flight on a 757. It feels narrow and cramped and I avoid flying on it. I am not sorry to see it go either.

Link to RNZAF video is dead.
-C.

Hi Cook

It is now fixed.

Thanks

Mal, AirlineReporter

Mike Meyer

Hi Malcom, Mike here. Yeah, UAL’s 757’s get you there with a crowded cabin. (been an aircraft mechanic with The Big U for 30 years). Cabin parts have been a problem. Electronics and structures have been more reliable than expected.

Funny thing: at PDX’s previous employee lot under the approach end of runway 28R… you hear wake turbulence while waiting for the bus. The 757 would sound violent, like somebody swinging a bullwhip through the air.

g’nite from ORD

I am not a frequently flyer, so my 757 experiences are few. One memory is a United flight LAX-HNL, and it was fine. Perhaps my expectations were low. 🙂

Used to live in Phoenix and enjoyed parking at the top of the parking garbage and watching planes take off and land at Sky Harbor. The angle of attack on 757 takeoffs was always steeper and more exciting to watch.

In my opinion this is one of the greatest aircraft ever built, just behind the 747 and way behind the Concorde. I appreaicte now and in the past an aircraft with true power, not like the things that Airbus build – e.g. 340. As a regular – sometimes 3 to 4 times a week on the BA shuttle, the loss of the 757 was for me a true loss. For me the 727 was horrific, the 767 was never a friend, but I would do anything to still fly a 757 and sit behind the engines and even today – I would give anything to fly a 757 in Europe rather than a Singer Sewing Machine made by Airbus – further rubbish from the EU.

Marcus Aurelius

It’s pretty pathetic how Boeing cheerleaders tend to bash Airbus and everything not made in the good ole U.S. of A. The fact of the matter is that both the 767 and A320 are more spacious than the 757; 18 inch-wide seats on the 767/A320 instead of the narrower 17.2 inch-wide seats on the 737/757. Only seriously deluded individuals would claim that the relatively comfortable twin aisle 767 was “less of a friend” than the cramped single aisle 757.

I am guessing that you are not an #AvGeek. Picking a favorite plane has little to do with final numbers, but more about their personality and even looks.

I would normally pick a 737 over an A320, but I would pick a 757 over both. Does it have to make sense? Not at all.

David, AirlineReporter

Scott Shearer

As usual, great article, Malcolm. Keep em’ coming!

Paul Begg

The size of the seat is of no consequence to me – firstly I have a small backside and secondly I always fly business or first. So I am deluded for having an opinion? What does that make you. I stick by that opinion now more than ever after reading your little notelet. Ich bedanke mich herzlichst Marcus aber ich bleibe bei meiner Meinung Yes I would much rather fly a Boeing or even an Embraer any day of the week than an Airbus. Unfortunately I do not always have that choice.

One question is it do wrong to have a favourite aircraft or a preferred manufacture? We are not yet living under an ISIS regime and I thought free speech still existed in the Western World.

I do not like Airbus products. Period. Understood. Yes and God Bless America

Ugh, enough with the right-wing rhetoric. A fear-mongering ISIS comment and a gratuitous “God Bless America” thrown in while bashing Airbus? Seriously dude, it discredits you, especially to anyone reading it that isn’t American.

Actually four variants of the 757. You missed the 757-200M, the Combi version, only one ordered, by Nepal Airlines. It is still flying, after nearly 24 years in the sky.

Love this aircraft but understand Boeing’s rationale for not going with a neo option.

First experience was on Eastern Airlines form FLL to ATL in 1989. It felt like a rocket the way it took off and climbed.

My most frequent flights on the 757 were American Airlines form BOG to MIA. It felt like the plane was laughing at BOG’s 8,368 ft altitude the way it easily lifted off from there.

I will really miss this airplane!

Very good article Malcolm, I feel your sentiment.

I too love the Boeing 757 and understand the reasoning why Boeing decided not to opt for a re-engined version plus continue production. However in terms of design its exceptionally good-looking and capabilities is certainly impressive, whether wanting to travel transatlantic on one however is a different matter?!
First experience with the airliner was by pure chance last year with Monarch on G-DAJB from EMA to KRK which was a charter flight with a number of students along with me to visit Auschwitz. Yeah, it looked like she has gone through a lot of wear and tear (the interior namely) since her 27 year career although she didn’t feel it, those RR engines certainly had the power to get there and back with ease. What was more remarkable was the students were shocked that they were flying on a 27 year old plane! Probably the best flight I’ve taken so far and saddened that she is stored now.

I’d say for the time being, I will continue to photograph these beautiful for a while to come, I will mourn the day when the last one is withdrawn.

Many Kind Regards,
Ben

Great piece of machinery!

AgentGerko

I have always thought that, along with the L1011, the B757 is one of the prettiest aircraft flying. As an Aussie they are rarely seen here but I did get to fly SYD-MEL in a Monarch B757-200 back in ’89 during the Great Pilot Strike.
When you say ‘clean sheet’ aircraft, isn’t the B757 basically the B727 fuselage with B767 engines? And why can’t they be re-engined if the newer aircraft can’t match them? Delta got years out of its DC9’s by doing that.

Clean sheet refers to a new design for the aircraft, rather than an updated model of am existing design. For instance the 737NG series was the last Boeing narrow body design but it was not clean sheet,the 757 was clean sheet but it just had common bits and pieces.

The 757 doesn’t share engines with any aircraft, they are unique to it (more powerful and larger than other narrow bodies but not as powerful or large as widebody variants). The 767 and 747 share a lot of the same engine versions although!

Great plane, just a mechanical nightmare. Non revving I try to avoid the heck out of it but I do appreciate its capabilities!

Don’t leave me 757 😩

I’ve never enjoyed flying on the 757, but I do think it’s a beautiful airplane. Would anyone else agree with me that in appearance it’s the closest thing flying to the classic Boeing 707? Now there was a beautiful airplane….

Plenty of life left in the 757’s for many years to come!! So it won’t be leaving the skies any time soon. It’s performance capabilities are unmatched. I’ll be flying to the Canary Islands in June on a 757 and I can’t wait.

My favorite jet. Best takeoff and climb out performance –always exciting – from a passenger viewpoint anyway. Superior replacement for the great 727-200, it itself has no replacement for the long routes. This plane made turbulence kind of fun. I think rudder input can be felt in the back while lining up for approach making it even more fun. I liked the models with the extra exit door just behind the wing in lieu of over wing exits – they seemed like long enough to be a 3-cabin aircraft. In the back row (was it 39?) could almost always see the beginning of the contrail. From the first Eastern one I saw at LGA in 1983 with the big “757” on its tail – I have always loved this aircraft.

Eastern Andrew

The B-757 looks earilly similar to the Concorde, from a head-on view, while at the terminal. I’ve always thought that. Especially from the way Boeing designed the nose gear to be so far back from the cockpit, and the way the airplane just sits there… Definitely. And the short-field takeoff performance is ummm… SECOND TO NONE. Period. It is outrageous compared to the likes of the A320, and uses so much less runway, than the Airbus aircraft. I loathed the noise from my first flight in an EAL 757 when I was twelve from LGA – FLL in Oct., 1984 with my mother, as we sat behind the right wing in that particular night flight. The noise was unbelievable, the thunderous roar which rattled my liver… It was scary to me, and I can’t believe the noise level and the shock waves which permitted through to the inner cabin. Outrageous. But the airplane is one sharp looker, and it truly looks impressive–even by today’s standards! Boeing most certainly needs to rewing, re-engine, and re-vamp the entire inner cabin of the aircraft to keep it in the air, for another 30 years!

Lord bless you guys, be well.

Sincerely,
EasternAndrewFlt1979

(Eastern one nine seven niner, Alpha Lima heavy.)

Nothing will ever compare to the 707, but the 757 comes close for us old schoolers.

La Forgia Vincent

I too am a fan, having flown most of the Boeing aircraft (727/737/747-4/757/767). The biggest issue for the old girl is the cost of engine overhauls. They are more expensive to overhaul than the engines on the 767, Fed Ex, among other operators, was going to replace all their 727’s with 757’s but realized it was almost same cost as using 767’s with nearly double the capacity. They ended up stopping the 757 conversion program and using 767’s.

Is the 757-200 still safe to fly? I have a trip coming up in December and will be flying American Airlines on one of their 757’s that is in the 22 to 24 year old range. I am not a good flyer anyway, so this scares me even more! Any mechanics out there or pilots with any reassuring info?

Thanks!

La Forgia Vincent

Hello Lee,

I understand your apprehension about flying an older aircraft, but having just flown some ex-American 757’s from the US to Asia for delivery to a new operator, I can tell you without any hesitation it is very safe.

American and all first tier major carriers take very good care of their equipment. The four aircraft I delivered to Asia were in very good shape, the flights went extremely smooth and we didn’t have any maintenance issues during the ferry flights.

FYI, aircraft are inspected thoroughly roughly every year and go through an extensive inspection every 5 – 7 years. In addition to the inspections, the manufacturer has time limits that the major components can be on an aircraft without being inspected or rebuilt, so on a 20 year old aircraft, only the major structure and other items that don’t wear out or break are still on the aircraft.

I hope this makes you feel more secure about your upcoming trip. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.

Hey,

Thank you so much for the reply. That does make me feel better. I was more concerned with metal fatigue issues like wings breaking off or engine mounts just from so many cycles of taking off and landing with such an old plane. Like you said I guess they check those things fairly regular.

Thanks again for the reply

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