Ode to the 757. What Can Replace this Most Versatile of Jetliners?

April 7, 2016

WHAT BOEING NEEDS to build isn’t a fancy new long-range widebody. What it needs to build is a replacement for the 757.

When it debuted in the early 1980s, the twin-engined 757 was ahead of its time, and it went on to sell quite well until the production line closed twelve years ago. By now the plane is — or should be — obsolete. Indeed it’s rare to spot a 757 outside of the United States. But here at home it remains popular, a mainstay of the fleets at United, American and Delta, who together operate over three hundred of them. They’ve kept the plane on their rosters so long for good reason: it’s one of a kind, and there’s nothing that can replace it.

The 757 is maybe the most versatile jetliner Boeing has ever built — a medium-capacity, high-performing plane that is able to turn a profit on both short and longer-haul routes — domestic or international; across the Mississippi or across the North Atlantic. The 757 makes money flying between New York and Europe, and also between Atlanta and Jacksonville. United and Delta fly 757s from their East Coast gateways on eight-hour services to Ireland, Scandinavia, and even Africa. You’ll also see it on 60-minute segments into Kansas City, Cleveland, and Tampa.

Along the way, it meets every operational challenge. Short runway? Stiff headwinds? Full payload? No problem. With 180 passengers on board, the plane can safely depart from a 6,000-foot runway, lifting off at a measly 135 knots (assuming flaps at 15 or 20), climb directly to 39,000 feet, and fly clear across the country. Nothing else can do that.

A 757 in the colors of launch customer Eastern Airlines.

A 757 in the colors of launch customer Eastern Airlines.

And it’s a good-looking machine to boot. Muscular yet graceful.

I know this in part because I’ve been piloting the 757 for the past eight years, along with its somewhat bigger sibling, the 767. The 787 is an excellent replacement for the latter, but what’s going to supersede the 757?

Boeing is pitching its latest 737 variants as the right plane for the job. Am I the only one rolling my eyes?

What I think about the 737 is that Boeing took what essentially was a regional jet — the original 737-100 first flew in 1967, and was intended to carry fewer than a hundred passengers — and has pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed, and pushed the thing to the edge of its envelope, through a long series of derivatives, from the -200 through the -900, and now onward to the 737 “MAX.” In other words it has been continuously squeezed into missions it was never really intended for. The plane flies poorly and, for a jet of its size, uses huge amounts of runway and has startlingly high takeoff and landing speeds. Its range allows for cross-country pairings, but transoceanic markets are out of the question.

I was wedged into the cockpit jumpseat of an American Airlines 737-800 not long ago, flying from Los Angeles to Boston. (In years past, coast-to-coast flights were always on widebody DC-10s or L-1011s.) Man if we didn’t need every foot of LAX’s runway 25R, at last getting off the ground at a nearly supersonic 160 knots — thank god we didn’t blow a tire — then slowly step-climbing our way to cruise altitude. What would it have been like in the opposite direction, I wondered — a longer flight, from a shorter runway, in the face of winter headwinds?

The 737’s poorly designed cockpit is incredibly cramped and noisy. The passenger cabin, meanwhile, is skinny and uncomfortable, using a fuselage cross-section unchanged from the Boeing 707, engineered in the 1950s.

What Boeing has long needed to do is design us a whole new airframe — let’s call it the 797 — that can equal the 757’s remarkable combination of performance and economy, but with more fuel-efficient engines, a modernized flight deck and a new cabin. This is well within the technical expertise, if not the imagination, of the world’s largest plane-maker.

It’s not that Boeing hasn’t looked into this. The company insists, however, that the market for such a plane, estimated at anywhere from 300 to a thousand examples, is too limited, be it an entirely new model, or even just a 757 enhancement. As a point of comparison, Boeing says that it won’t break even on its super-successful 787 program until at least 1,500 individual aircraft have been sold. If this is true, it’s a sad testament to how expensive it has become to develop new airframes.

Meanwhile we get more and more 737s, the plane that kind of, sort of, almost does the job, but not really.

Airbus, for its part, says that its A321, a stretched-out version of the A320, is the more adequate replacement. Perhaps it is, but this plane, too, fails to match the 757’s range or payload capabilities. An upcoming variant, the A321 “neo,” might prove to be more suitable, we’ll see. If so, and if Airbus begins to rack up orders, then shame on Boeing. If a whole new plane was out of the question, couldn’t they at least have updated the existing one, perhaps with new engines, before shutting down the line altogether?

For now there’s nothing to fill its shoes. And so the 757 flies on.


Additional Notes:

The 737, for all its popularity, seems relegated to second-class status outside the U.S. The only legacy European carriers that still fly the 737 are KLM and the much troubled SAS. Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways, among others, all have retired them. Turkish Airlines, one of the new global heavy-hitters, switched its focus to the A320 some time ago. In Asia you see only a few. It’s mostly the LCC and secondary carriers that still seem to like them. Ryanair, for example. Or GOL in South America.

Explain to me, too: The 737 and the A320 are basically the same size, and designed for the same mission. How is it that the A320’s cockpit is four times roomier than the 737’s?

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145 Responses to “Ode to the 757. What Can Replace this Most Versatile of Jetliners?”
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    The 757 had an edge on maintenance reliability, and was a great joy to fly. The engine not being used anywhere else can be solved now either variety of high by pass engines on the market. Like what was said in another article the 737 was a regional airliner to compete with the venerable Diesel 9. I have maintained most major aircraft platforms flying up to the ND-11s and I feel by far the 757 fills many gaps that are not adequately filled by the 737 or 777.

  2. Parker West says:

    Boeing chooses to ride 737 into infinity, after all it’s the moneymaker paying for losses on the 787-8 and other stumbles. The ground clearance problems when using new high bypass power plants was solved for the –300 series onward with the infamous “dented in” bottom. Boeing held the best solution to increasingly larger and larger diameter engine intakes, the 757. An aircraft design passengers loved, aviation lovers considered the 757 the most beautiful bird in sky. The seating was the same 6-across as the 707, 727, before it, however the 757 felt roomier, spacious, less boxy.
    Because Boeing arrogantly approached narrowbody customers with a “its the 737 or else” sales pitch, 757’s were replaced by A320, 321 purchases, still Boeing didn’t flinch. They had a gold nugget, they just threw away.

  3. 2 reasons: Training costs and operating costs.

    The 757 got hit by a triple whammy: Its engines, airframe and cockpit are pretty much one of a kind. Same thing that happened to the MD-95/717 in the end.

    Engines: Neither the RB211-535 or the PW2000 were used anywhere else (not counting the C-17). That meant extra inventory costs and complication, and bean counters always look at that when they swing the axes and make a mess of things. The 737 had CFM56s that are shared by world+dog, and sold by the hour by SNECMA.

    Airframe: Parts for the pig (“la chancha” in Spanish, the Argentine nickname for the 737) are sold at Wal-Mart, and fit everything from -600 to -900ERXYZ-longer-than-a-707 variants. Some parts even fit ALL 737s from the only -100 left flying to today’s green MAX in Seattle. 757 parts don’t even fit the 767, which is its designated ugly fat friend.

    Cockpit: The 757’s cockpit was the first Boeing didn’t design by filling the bird test air cannon with instruments and aiming it in the general direction of the front of the aircraft. That’s cool for pilots who get to fly it on a 757/767 rating… which is not compatible with the rest of the airlines’ fleet, which is mainly composed of 737s. Again, too much complication for the bean counters, who will swing their beloved axes and say it’s more efficient to train pilots in a single type of aircraft, safety/efficiency/pax comfort/the whole world be damned to hell.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why do you think that Boeing chose to update the 737 rather than the 757? The 757 was conceived at a later date than the 737, and thus had a newer design. Why did they choose to modify an aircraft that is decades older than the 757 and add newer technology to it in an effort to replace the 757? I’ve read that it was in part because of a market trend toward smaller jets for short to mid range flights, but I’d be interested to hear your opinion on it.

  5. Carlos Si says:

    Also the a321LR would only be able to replace the 757 when it needs to fly far away given enough runway, but not when it needs to fly out of hot and high airports or to those with short runways, such as airports in Central America. The small a319S is covering some of those flights already from DFW as an example (many of these flights used to be 757-flown). Neither Airbus could do both hot/high and long range together.

  6. Carlos Si says:

    (continued from below)

    Isn’t 3000nm+ more than enough range even if strong headwinds exist? Or is the problem there because the 737 is just too “heavy” (which compared to a 757, it definitely is in terms of T/W ratio) and only has that much range because it carries enough fuel? I guess you can make a Cessna 172 fly transatlantic flights if you strap several tons of fuel to it, but it’ll need a hk of a lot more power and runway to make it.

    Having said all that, how long is long enough for a 737 (7 or 8) to fly?

    Hopefully this new MOM aircraft will be a hit…. and personally, I hope it looks just as “graceful” and pretty (aesthetics have always been important to me).

  7. Carlos Si says:

    Seems like everything is getting replaced by 737s (and a320s) nowadays; even large aircraft like the 767 and a300 (recall Lufthansa’s domestic fleet) have been “replaced” with aircraft half their size, with the justification that the airline will simply “boost frequency”. Way to crowd airports.

    But yes, 737s are been put on missions it was never really designed for. I’m surprised 7377s fly from SNA all the way to EWR! On a 6000 ft runway (though to be fair the elevation is pretty low but is hot). How much runway did you think you used on that one transcon flight to Boston?

    I guess my question is, if an aircraft /could/ fly a route, why shouldn’t it? Is there enough of a safety margin in place, or is it actually dangerous to fly such a route? Don’t get me wrong, I think the 757 if anything should be kept as a transcon-liner, or kept to fly anything over 2000 nautical miles. Kudos to Delta for keeping it that way for the most part (unlike American which has replaced much of its transcon service with 738s, such as SFO-MIA, LAX-BOS, DEN-MIA, and even SEA-MIA… yikes!!).

    One other thing I wonder about: if the 737 is advertised to fly up to 3000 nautical miles, why couldn’t it comfortably fly coast to coast when that distance is only about 2000nm+? (continued)

    • Parker West says:

      Call it the Southwest effect 2.0. After making a joke of SWs cattle call boarding, it’s no meals on long flights, stuffing as many bodies into their pudgy 737 cocoons as they could; the legends went out and copied their maligned competitor. Agreed the 737 was designed for 500-1000 mile flights, not criss crossing the country.

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. Mary Monk says:

    Here in London, it is a rarity to see a 757 now. They were THE BEST: elegant, powerful and could operate on routes other aircraft just cannot fly. The scrapping of Monarch’s 757’s was one of the saddest days. They were well-maintained and could have carried on flying. They were killed by the suits at Greybull, a bunch of bankers who know nothing about aircraft.

    I have tried to get a guaranteed flight on a 757 with Thomson or Thomas Cook the only holiday operators left. I don’t care where I go as long as it’s on a 757!! But they can never confirm so I don’t book. When I’m on an A321 I try to pretend it’s a 757.

    You guys in the U.S., make the most of that beautiful aircraft whilst you still have the chance; you’ll miss her when she’s gone.

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks, Mary, for the nice comment. I fly the 767 and 757 both. I have to say that I prefer the 767. The cockpit is quieter, roomier, cleaner. The 757 flight decks are incredibly grimy, and that damn recirculation fan is LOUD! Still, I try to savor and appreciate it, best I can.

    • Przemek says:

      Hi Mary. I agree with you that seeing a 757 these days in UK is a very rare experience. I am however somehow lucky. I had the trip on Thomson airways 757 about 3 times , each time it was a great experience and demonstration of the aircraft capabilities. I’m also double lucky because of fact I leave directly on the approach to the RWY 08 at Luton airport and I can see runaway light from my window. Till not long ago french based airline LaCompagnie operated its stunning 757-200W reg F-HTAG from here . It was trully stunning looking 757 ! Shame is no longer here

      best regards from 30 miles north


  10. DRLunsford says:

    I agree with you, but nothing succeeds like success. There are 3200+ orders for the MAX on the books. It will probably make international flights. Its performance is sure to be much better than the current iterations.

  11. David D says:

    Boeing’s stretch of the original 737-100 was no different than the DC-9; howevery, Douglas did not try to develop it into a transcontinental jetliner. The now defunct Hawaii express flew 3rd generation 737-700

  12. David D says:

    Boeing’s stretch of the original 737-100 was no different than the DC-9; howevery, Douglas did not try to develop it into a transcontinental jetliner. The now defunct Hawaii express flew 3rd generation 737-700

  13. RaflW says:

    I agree that the 737 is an unlovely aircraft. But you take it to task for the narrow fuselage, when of course the 757 has the same diameter. The A321neoLR will not truly replace the 757, but it will provide most of the essential route pair replacements of the medium haul to ‘short-longhaul’ 757 service now done by US carriers, with a modestly more comfortable cross section.
    Boeing blew it when they didn’t take Airbus seriously in the development of the A321 and, in my opinion, the just as important recognition that passengers are getting wider!

  14. Nick Ivanov says:

    Thank you for the website and the book. I love both.
    I was reading Wikipedia about 757, and encountered the information about Boeing researching 757 alternative. Wikipedia refers here:

    Hope it will be of interest.

  15. Airbus pilot says:

    Having flown the 737, it would go down as the worst aircraft I have flown ergonomically. It is a dinosaur and they are going to revive it again with the “max”. It is basically the aircraft equivielent of Elizabeth Taylor having so many face lifts and makeovers in it’s time. It is not easy or nice to fly and the fittings are just out of the DC3 age. I now fly an Airbus and what a dream that is to fly. Large spacious cockpit and the fly by wire technology really makes it a dream to fly. Surely there is a market for a new generation 737 replacement…?

  16. CS says:

    I’m no pilot, but in my experience (on x-plane) the v-speeds on the 737 have always been 5-10 knots higher than the airbus. The higher v-speeds don’t really affect the safety though it does also mean that the takeoff roll is longer (meaning that the short field capabilities of the 737 would’ve been weaker).

  17. maxe2 says:

    One of the differences between the B737 and the Airbus 320 series: the Airbus planes are a good six inches wider. Oh boy, it does make quite a difference…

  18. Speed says:

    Aviation Week:

    Analysis: What Airlines Want In Middle-Market Aircraft

  19. M says:

    I am not a professional but, I think the 757 is a beautifully styled aircraft. Boeing should somehow figure a way to rebuild the plane with updates like they keep making to the 737.

  20. Speed says:

    From Aviation Week …

    Boeing’s New Midsize Airplane: Low Development Cost, Price Are Key

    Two years after Boeing launched studies for a new middle-of-the-market (MOM) aircraft, the first clear picture is beginning to emerge to show where the company’s evaluations are going and what kind of family may be developed.
    [ … ]
    “The MOM is starting to shape out to be in an area from where the 757 used to fly to where the 767-200/300 flies,” says Mike Delaney, vice president and general manager of airplane development at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “That’s not 100% across the board. You have three groups: those that want to fly more people, those that want more range and the group that wants to fly more people with more range. However, this airplane really wants to be transatlantic, so most of the customers want [it] to fly 4,800-5,000 nm. That’s significantly longer than the 757, but the seat count wants to be between 200 and 260 to 270 max. So it is a little bit bigger than a current single-aisle but not quite as big as a 767-type aircraft.”


  21. Jim says:

    I understand that pilots like the 757. It has good power, good wings, is responsive like a sports car. But for passengers, the 757 can be a nightmare. It is a one-aisle jumbo jet, and if you are in the rear of economy with a connecting flight, it is one nervous experience, sitting in row 40, wondering if anyone will ever get off the plane. It is not passenger friendly. The 767 is much nicer.

    The 737 is not really much of an improvement.

    While pilots did not like the Mad Dog, due to its lack of thrust, the layout in the cabin was pretty nice, especially if you got on the 2 side.

    • Patrick says:

      Good point about the 757. It does take forever to get on and off the thing. I wish that more U.S. airports used double jetways. In Europe and Asia, where they use two or even three jet bridges at a time, I’ve seen them load and unload a packed 747 or A380 in ten minutes. The 757 has two forward-of-the-wing, left-side doors that would allow this. Of course, it does have only a single aisle, which somewhat negates this advantage, but still it’d make the process faster.

      As for the “Mad Dog,” it was comfortable in the forward rows, but if you were in the very back, close to the engines, it was really loud, and the long skinny fuselage, like the 757, made for tedious boarding and deplaning. (I say “was,” but here in the U.S. there are still plenty of MD-80 series planes flying).

  22. nonzenze says:

    Transatlantic in a narrow-body?! Savages!

    Anyway, I thought it was the 767 (and now the 787) that was supposed to fill in the “lighter” overseas routes that might otherwise have to connect through a hub & spoke …

  23. Luke says:

    While I would have to agree with the author as to the fact that the 737 was never designed to fill the shoes of a 757, and shouldn’t have to; the plane is versatile in it’s own right. It’s versatility comes in the number of variations it comes in; as proven by Southwest Airlines, who operates solely on variants of the 737. However, the author is completely correct: the 737 did not need to get any bigger than the -800 variant. What was, and still is needed, is an aircraft which can match the 757; one designed for the role, not spliced into it.

  24. Planes run strongly in my family, specially in my dad and myself. My dad is a former aircraft mechanic himself. We share our distrust for the 737 in longer routes.

    For my day job, I frequently fly the MVD-PTY route (almost 7 hours), operated by CM with 737s. They are uncomfortable even in business class, go figure. They are slow, often flying at no more than 800 km/h (looking for max fuel efficiency I guess), and when they are about to land they are less than 30 min away from their max autonomy spec. Basically they land on fumes (which for a landing in MVD quite restricts your diversion airport choices).

    We love the 757, and I believe Boeing committed a huge mistake when they shut down the line. I’m pretty sure that the newer A321 variants (not only the NEO, but a rumored higher gross weight variant as well) will capture that market segment for good.

  25. Avinash Raghu says:

    I remember flying Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Chennai, India. That route was operated using an Airbus A321. But I am not sure if it can be classified as a true “trans-oceanic” flight (which it is). I also believe A-321s are used on routes like Moscow to Western Europe. I would think the A321 is probably the closest competitor/successor to the 757.

  26. Mike Abrams says:

    I wonder if the real obstacle in updating the existing 757 is metal fatigue, considering the age an number of cycles on many of the airframes.

    Granted, any packed 3-3 cabin is uncomfortable, but the 757 sure could handle itself, for any experienced traveler who cared to notice. I’ve seen them climb in and around storms, and sometimes plow through when there was no other option. The power with either RB211 or PW2037, agility, and stability were impressive and reassuring.

    This is not what sells airplanes in 2016, but nothing I’d rather be on in really difficult flying conditions. The 757 is also beautiful, sort of combination of the best features of the 707 and DC-8, with 2 fewer engines.

    Honorable mention to the 767 series, some of the same qualities in a wider package.

  27. Eric says:

    @Beezer44: I could not agree more. From a passenger perspective I hate any narrow body plane with the 3-3 seating configuration. When I go somewhere I always pick the plane whenever possible and I avoid the 757, 737, A319/20 always choosing the 767 (a great plane) A330/40 or better yet the Embraer 145/175/190 planes. Their seat configuration is so much more comfortable being never more than one seat from the aisle.

  28. Jeff Sandys says:

    737 pilots are trained to set it down to prevent single axle shimmy that happens when they try to grease the landing, not an issue with the dual axle 757.

  29. I worked on the 757 just as it was announced for production in 1978. It has the same fuselage cross-section as the 707, 727 and 737. Originally it had a 727-type nose section (Boeing lingo: 41 Section). The 41 Section was rapidly re-designed after much debate about pilot visibility issues in the PSA 727 accident in 1978. It was changed to use the glass from the 767, which was being designed concurrently; this made for an all-new 41 with no parts from the 727.

    The basic design target was the one-engine takeoff from an airport that is at about 10,000 feet altitude on a hot day – ergo big engines.

    The tall landing gear would accommodate engines with a larger fan – more efficient to operate.

    Boeing should just re-start the production. Too bad they cancelled the program after less than 100 of the 757-300’s were built.

    • Parker Wet says:

      The 757 has been flying college football teams cross county including BYU an independent forced to travel more than team’s in a conference, and further. They use PVU at 4700 feet elevation, having a 8,000 and 6000 foot runways. The aircraft carries a large cargo and the seats are occupied by players up into the 340 pound range.
      What other narrow body can take the place of the 757 charter for flights to Boston, Wash D.C.,Miami or Orlando? Many of those takeoffs can take place in August or September when temps can be in the upper eighties to lower nineties.
      A fully fueled 737-800 requires a longer runway so flights leave from SLC 40 miles north inconvenient and costlier. An Airbus requires a refueling stop in DEN, STL, or MCI.
      Boeing could deal with commonality quirks with the aircraft if they wished to. The standard seems to be the Dreamliner cockpit and wings, redesign the fuselage and shop the engine requirements to P&W, RR, and GE.

  30. Ben says:

    The 757 is really special plane and I neither see the 737NG along with MAX and even the A321 and A321NEO fully cutting it on replacing it. The engines powering all these current and future aircraft appear to be less powerful then the 757’s engines which can be a critical factor in short runways and hot temp and/or high altitude airport operations.
    There is also I feel a real demand for an ultra long haul narrowbody airliner that can bypass wide body hubs and infrastructure upgrades which neither the 737 and A320 can really do because they are both medium haul aircraft that tend to be confined mostly to hub and spoke operations for airlines of all kinds.
    We probably need a completely new design of aircraft and engine to take full advantage that niche, but a hypothetical 757 MAX-8 with raked wing and tips like the 777F/200LR/300ER, 787-8/9/10 and 747-8 with a modern engine with the power or slightly greater then 757-200/300 could come real close to filling that gap.

  31. Neil Laferty says:

    I was very sad/angry when production of the 757 closed but was encouraged when I started seeing them retrofitted with winglets. Perhaps I am wrong but I took that as a sign to me that airlines were planning to fly them a while longer (and to mitigate their notorious wake turbulence).

  32. Tim says:

    Great article and vindicated my love for the 757. Fell in love with it when I flew Icelandair in 1996 to Germany. Discovered you from listening to your show on Freakonomics by the way.

  33. Bill Martin (SLF) says:

    If I recall correctly, another factor in the favour of A32x adoption for larger narrow-body requirements by virtually every major carried outside the USA was that the low deck can hold LD3 ULDs if ordered with the correct door option.

  34. Paolo says:

    Good info on the 757, not long ago I was wondering why you don’t see them around anymore, well I haven’t been to the US for quite sometime now… maybe that’s why.
    As for the 737, Monoglot is right, Air China, China Southern and China Eastern have hundreds of 737s, Malaysia Airlines operates 80. Silkair also operates a number of 737s. These serve not only domestic routes but also all of South East Asia.
    In other words, they are very popular in Asia and are indeed great planes, different from the impression Patrick gives on his post.

  35. Monoglot says:

    Thanks Patrick – really interesting post. I’d be interested to hear more about the “startlingly high take off and landing speeds” – how different are they from the 320/321 and why? Also what are the implications of that on safety, versatility etc?

    On your last point, it was interesting to read that the 737 is losing out to Airbus. I’m based in China and have flown a lot domestically over the last few years. While I always go for a widebody plane if I have the choice (777s, 787s, 330s and even 340s and 380s are available on a *lot* of routes here), it seems to me that the 320 vs 737 split is about even, and a quick check of the top four Chinese airlines seems to confirm that. Any idea why?

  36. Edward Furey says:

    When I was in India a few weeks ago, we took a couple of flights in Jet Airways, which operates 737-800s. It seems they have about 75 737 variants in their fleet about about 75 on order. Also, SpiceJet operates 737s, so India may be a minor exception to the “outside the United States” rule.

    • Phoenix says:

      Jet Airways is a major 737 operator along with Spicejet in India. Their major competitor IndiGo, however, is a committed A320 customer.

    • Avinash Raghu says:

      Yes – I was about to point out too that Jet Airways and Spicejet are major 737 operators. But somehow right from the olden days, Indian Airlines (Now merged into Air India) has predominantly been an Airbus operator.

  37. Jim Hughes says:

    As a regular flyer with Ryanair 737,s I have always wondered why the take -off run was sooo long. Now I know. Is this also why the 737 doesn’t land as such bur more like being thrown down on the runway????. 737,S always seem to land with a thud. EasyJet and their Airbus has a more pleasant experience

    • Andy Millon says:

      The 737’s long takeoff run is due to airline economics. The simple explanation is that the 737 (-800s at AA) has four engine options on the wing. We first select the thrust rating engine we want to use (22k, 24k, 26k or 27k lbs of thrust) and then “derate” (reduce the thrust again) that engine to get the “optimum” (least operating cost) thrust setting for the particular takeoff situation. Basically: the lower the takeoff thrust = the lower the operating costs. Therefore; the longer the runway available = the lower the takeoff thrust = the longer the ground roll to reach the same flying speed.

      • CS says:

        But even in full takeoff power, the 737 still has very high v-speeds

        • Joe says:

          I wonder what the C-series take off velocity is (vs. the 737, as that is one of the target replacements according to Bombardier). I see that the former can take off from a 4000 foot field, so think it would be a fair bit lower. I have no idea how the flight decks compare in size/layout.

  38. Martin says:

    Since there is no comment section on your Express Blog, I’ll post here about your anti-jet-bridge mini-rant. You are right, there is much more of a connection to the airplane experience when you get on or off the rolling stairway. There can also be a big time savings if a bus takes you from the plane right to an entrance near immigration/ baggage claim. However, those stairs are a disaster for the mobility impaired. And walking onto the plane can be awfully unpleasant for the fully able-bodied if it is spitting sleet and you are stuck on a stairway waiting for a busload of people in front of you to get their bags into the overhead bins so you can get indoors.

  39. Beezer44 says:

    As a passenger, I cannot speak for the operational, economic or cockpit features of the 757. But from someone who travels steerage, mho to the 757 is “goodbye and good riddance.” It is the most uncomfortable of any of the large aircraft for passengers. The typical 757 configuration is a single long tube of 3×3 seating with some heads and a galley stuffed uncomfortably in the rear. Other than seated (and belted in, of course), there is no place on a longer flight to stretch legs or stretch at all, stand, queue up for the toilet or avoid the flight attendants trying to do their jobs.

    I appreciate that modern aviation economics dictate stuffing the maximum number of bodies into the minimum amount of space. But I suspect “coach” comes close to violating at least one provision of the Geneva Convention.

  40. Phoenix says:

    If anyone is looking for a unique 757 experience asides from Icelandair, check out La Compagnie. They fly between New York and Paris/London in 757s kitted out in Business Class only. https://www.lacompagnie.com

    More fun trivia: The folks behind La Compagnie tried this exact same trick before, but sold their operation to BA, who promptly fitted Y and Y+ cabins. Now called OpenSkies.

    (note: I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, just saying people should try this out and report back!)

  41. Martin says:

    I’ve always wondered what UA is going to do to replace all those 757 routes to Europe? I’ve looked at the specs for the 321 neo. Seems a very tight margin of error on range if you want to fly that plane EWR-STR or EWR-HAM. Plus, UA is now an all-Boeing carrier. Since UA is my preferred carrier, I’m wondering if they’ll have to switch to the 787 on those routes instead.

    • Phoenix says:

      Martin: first off UA is not all-Boeing. They have A319 and A320 in their fleet plus orders for A350-1000.
      The crux of Patrick’s article is that there is no direct 757 replacement, either in UA’s fleet plans or otherwise. The 737-900/ER is cramped and has a noisy cockpit (again according to Patrick), and the A321 comes closest but still lacks in range/payload, so airlines either upguage to 767 or A330-200 if their route economics justify a widebody (and take a haircut on yield), or increase A321/737-900ER frequency and eat the operating and landing/airport costs.
      As I mentioned a couple of posts down, no easy way out….

    • Phoenix says:

      I just did a spot search on united.com: EWR-HAM non-stop is operated by B767-300 (which is widebody) but I couldn’t find any non-stop EWR-STR routings. Care to point me in the right direction?

      • Wv399 says:

        Delta is the only domestic carrier to serve Stuttgart. They have daily service from Atlanta. Dovetails nicely with Porsche being based in Atlanta, and Mercedes moving there.

    • WildaBeast says:

      Actually United already has replaced many of the 757’s on transatlantic flights with 767’s. IIRC they’ve retired most of the original United 757s and moved most of the ex-Continental ones onto domestic flights to replace them, particularly on Hawaii flights.

  42. Christopher Van Veen says:

    I’m one of those geeks that goes onto FlightDiary to log every one of my airline segments, complete with registrations. It’s fun to realize how many times I’ve been to the moon and back, according to the math that spells it all out when you enter the mileage for each trip.

    The site also gives you nice metrics on the planes you’ve been on most, and for me the 757 rises to second place on the list (to the 737-300). Several of those journeys were either to or from Manchester (MHT) in the days when United served our airport with mainline service. 757s were used twice and sometimes 3x daily, and my flights were full or nearly so to or from ORD. Also memorable were the ‘John Wayne Takeoffs’ where they’d spool the engines up while standing on the brakes. It was enough of a difference so that noting it to passengers over the PA was a standard practice.

    The 757 is indeed in need of a replacement. The next-gen 737s are probably too small, even though at Logan the 738 is about as common as mosquitoes at a picnic.

  43. John Skrabutenas says:

    Apparently, the 757 needs to divert more often that other models due to airlines flying it near the margins of its fuel capacity, and thereby not tolerating unexpected headwinds as easily.


    “Both airlines have been aware of the diversion problem for years, particularly after dozens of diversions affected Boeing 757 trans-Atlantic flights in 2012. In December of that year, United’s 757s had to stop 43 times to refuel out of nearly 1,100 flights headed to the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. The reason was an unusually strong jet stream blowing across the North Atlantic. A year earlier, there were only 12 unscheduled stops on about the same number of flights, the paper reported.”

    “However, the 757 is attractive to airlines on certain routes because it accommodates fewer people than wide-body jets like the Boeing 767 or Airbus A330, which is ideal for flights at times that are less busy or between cities with lower demand, such as Oslo to Newark.”

  44. Phoenix says:

    Patrick: a couple minor point-outs:

    757s still fly around Europe, with leisure carriers Monarch and Condor, and, as pointed out by another poster, how can we forget Icelandair!

    Also, Turkish has MAX 8 and 9 on order, so they’re not completely shifting focus to the A320 (despite also ordering A321 CEO and NEO).

  45. Phoenix says:

    Patrick: well written. The skies will be poorer once the last 757 is retired, but I can’t think of an “easy” way out for Boeing, especially given the A321 so entrenched worldwide.

    IF Boeing were to tackle a non-737 MOM, I surmise that, instead of a 757X (or MAX, or NG – label isn’t important), it will likely a clean-sheet design. Two reasons:

    1) Timeline. Boeing has their hands FULL. 737 MAX 9 and 200 still being worked on, 787-10 next, 777X after that. By the time Boeing starts on their MOM, no airline in their right mind would want a re-engined 50 year old design. Yes 50 years.

    2) Marketplace. As I pointed out earlier, the A321 is everywhere. It’s outsold the 757 and 737-900/ER. Even in North America it’s made more than a beachhead, it’s a core part of the intercontinental product at AC, AA, VX, and B6. To get airlines to pivot off that? They will want something completely revolutionary. 737 MAX 9 isn’t revolutionary. Re-engined 757 will not deliver revolutionary either.

    Boeing did propose a 787-3 (a shrunken-down 787-8) to the Japanese carriers, but even they were lukewarm and that ended up being scrapped. (Airlines have not been keen on fuselage shrinks full-stop.) While it’s possible Boeing resurrects this idea, I’m fairly sure the reception won’t be any better this time around.

    So, I think the “797” will end up being a clean-sheet narrow-body, with tech liberally cribbed from the 787, 777, and even the 747-8. Here’s your revolution.

  46. Tom says:

    I’ll basically say “amen” regarding the 757. I didn’t like the noisy hydraulics, and two trans-Atlantic roundtrips (United to Dublin, Icelandair to Keflavik) were certainly cramped. But in my road-warrior days, the trips on the 757 tended to be the most comfortable flying — and it certainly handles the bumps much better than the 737!

  47. Thomas says:


    By taking off into the wind (the wind will generate part of the required lift) the aircraft lifts off sooner and this will result in a lower ground speed and therefore a shorter take-off run for the aircraft to become airborne. It is therefore recommended.

    Not only for safety reasons: a take-off that is abandoned will also use less runway to stop because ground speed is lower (check the ASDA distance during preflight). Climbing into the wind will result in a steeper climb, which is ideal for clearing obstacles in your climb out path.

    A rule of thumb says that take-off and landing distances are reduced 1,5 % for each knot of headwind up to 20 knots.

    • John Skrabutenas says:

      To what are you responding regarding headwinds?

      • Thomas says:

        “Man if we didn’t need every foot of LAX’s runway 25R, at last getting off the ground at a nearly supersonic 160 knots — thank god we didn’t blow a tire — then slowly step-climbing our way to cruise altitude. What would it have been like in the opposite direction, I wondered — a longer flight, from a shorter runway, in the face of winter headwinds?”

        • Matt says:

          I believe he is referring to the higher fuel load to account for cross country headwinds resulting in a take off weight closer to mgtow. Higher weight equals a longer takeoff run.

  48. Ram Todatry says:

    As both a frequent flyer (740,000+ miles on Star Alliance alone), and a private pilot (single engine hobbyist), I really appreciate you comparisons of the different versions of the 737 and the A320 series. Thanks, I always wondered why Airbus was racking up the orders, and has a bigger backlog than Boeing.

  49. Paul F. says:

    Another good read this is, Sir!

    “If a whole new plane was out of the question, couldn’t they at least have updated the existing one, perhaps with new engines, before shutting down the line altogether?”

    -I agree 101%! I have never flown on a 757 but I’ve been in love with it since I first saw one more than 15 years ago. It is a fine, sexy, regal plane to me (I swear, to say I love the aircraft is an understatement LOL). It’s a very rare aircraft here in the Philippines and everytime I see one (mostly FX’s -200SFs), I’m always eye drooling – big time. I’m one those people who would love to see an enhanced version of the 757, but with Boeing’s current plan, it seems like it will not happen anytime soon (or ever ????).

    Even so, I’m still hoping to fly on a 757 soon. Icelandair’s Hekla Aurora is def on my list!

  50. TJ says:

    “How is it that the A320’s cockpit is four times roomier than the 737’s?”

    Well for starters there’s no yoke, they fly it with the cute little joysticks on the armrest…

  51. Roger says:

    I flew all three (B757, B737, A320). The performance and handling of the B757 was superior and most pilots would agree it was the most fun to fly. It could just do things the others could not. The A321 neo is the only logical successor. The current A321’s are real dogs, but the power boost should help a lot. Boeing missed an important niche on this.

  52. rob colter says:

    Hi Patrick—my most uncomfortable flights have been Economy class on United 757s. The 3/3 configuration with no leg room and a hip-scraping aisle is not where you want to be overnight from L.A. to Boston. Iceland Air uses similar torture tubes. I will grant you that it can get into the air in a hurry. We left St. Maarten’s pinched airport one evening and I was very happy at how steeply we powered away from the mountain at the end of the runway. But I will never knowingly choose to fly on one again.

  53. Frank C says:

    Patrick, what does “Shut Down a Production Line” mean ??? The 757 is one of the best Boeing Jets built. Why “shut down” if it is possible to make improvements..i.e. DC8-61/62/63 to DC871/72/73 with up to 189 passengers and long range.

  54. I’ve been flying the 737-300, 700 and 800 for several years now and I agree with you except for the “flies poorly” part. Its a nice flying machine.

    That being said Boeing maybe ought to be embarrassed about this thing…the cockpit is horrible…cramped, and noisy. Its like a 57 Chevy with some TVs and Atari software thrown in.

    And the MAX…seriously is this the best we can do? I equate it to the “new” Ford Mustang…Chevrolet Camaro. They were awesome in the day but now…is this the best we can do?

    IMO it is indicative of what is wrong with the business and economies today…its all about expensive labor and potential litigation. This has killed so much innovation.

    So, maybe Boeing can not be blamed for an “embarrassing” jet.

    Again, my uneducated opinion…

  55. Mike says:

    Hi Patrick, can you explain exactly what it means when you say the 737 flies poorly? To which aspects of its flight characteristics, beyond takeoff and landing speeds, does this description refer?

  56. ken hardy says:

    Instead of designing the 797 why not simply refurbish the existing 757s? Isn’t it possible to replace the engines with more fuel efficient ones, and upgrade the cockpit and cabin? I would think this would provide 90% of the efficiency gain of a new aircraft at a fraction of the cost.

  57. Rob says:

    I always enjoyed flying the 757 from LGA to DTW on Northwest. That was a dedicated route for that aircraft. The 757 did indeed seem roomier than other single aisle jets. I remember the short take-offs and rapid climbs out of LGA. It always seemed like we hit cruise altitude within 5 mins.

    I was lucky enough to fly a 757 from JFK to Vegas and that was a comfortable 5 hour flight. I flew a 737 on a 2 hour flight from OKC to Vegas and that seemed like a cramped flight that took forever.

    It’s sad to see the extent to which R&D has been scaled back at most American companies these days…even at companies like Boeing. Yes, they did just roll out the 787, but the 70s and 80s were full of rapid R&D. It was what, almost 20 years between the roll out of the 777 and the 787?

    • Speed says:

      In the years from 2007 to 2015, Boeing spent the following on R&D activities (company-funded):
      2014: $3,047 million, or 3.4% of total revenues.
      2013: $3,071 million, or 3.5% of total revenues.
      2012: $3,298 million, or 4.0% of total revenues.
      2011: $3,918 million, or 5.7% of total revenues.
      2010: $4,121 million, or 6.4% of total revenues.
      2009: $6,506 million, or 9.5% of total revenues.
      2008: $3,768 million, or 6.2% of total revenues.
      2007: $3,850 million, or 5.8% of total revenues.
      2006: $3,257 million, or 5.3% of total revenues.


      More information at the link.

      Airbus data is harder to find. Some here …

  58. Tod Davis says:

    I’m actually going on my first ever 757 flight in September (MCO-ATL with Delta) i can’t wait to see what the fuss is about

  59. John LM says:

    Was happy to see this entry. I’ve spent more time then I’d like admit researching the demise of the 757at the hands of its maker. I’d say it’s only second to the Concorde in terms of head scratching question marks. You had a one of a kind plane that could do anything and replace it with stretched out regional jet. My favorite comparison is the one you made about the 757 being able to blast off to cruising altitude while the 737 takes one of those stair case elevators for old people to get there. A plane with more power then it needs, when has that ever happened other then with the 757? We know it definitely won’t happen again. As for the passenger experience, the 757 feels like a wide body even though it only has one isle. The feeling of adventure that only a sectioned off plane can inspire. When you walk into a 737 and see the long aisle of seats all the way to the back there is no mystery , you’re flying to Milwaukee. I will miss the 757 when it finally retires. My personal opinion is that Boeing didn’t want to give customers an option to buy anything other then a Dreamliner for those long thin routes. Too bad Airbus is keeping the A330 around with new engines, less money, no long wait and probably 95% of the performance.

  60. Paul Johanson says:

    The Boeing 737 is still big here in Australia. All the major airlines have fleets of the things, plying between Melbourne and Sydney every half hour.

  61. Michael says:

    I work for FedEx, we bought about a 100 or so of these 757 desert queens and converted them to freighters. The 757’s are our most dependable plane behind the brand new 767’s we bought recently. The Rolls engines have a few quirks but once they got sorted they are bullet proof, the Pratts are good too. They do have a tendency to use hydraulic fluid and leak, that is not good but the storage probably caused that.Your article made me realize what a versatile niche the 757 occupies. I’ve maintained the 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, all variants, the 757 is and was an amazing airplane for it’s time. FedEx will be flying them for 20 more years, probably one or two you’ve flown. That was a good article about them.

  62. CS says:

    AA is already replacing its domestic 757s with a321s…

  63. Matt says:

    I’ve done EWR-CPH a few times on SAS (actually PrivatAir) 737. As I understand it, there are only a few transatlantic capable 737’s.

    The business class is OK but I’ve often wondered about the guys on the flight deck for that long, it’s pretty tiny in there.

  64. TomZ says:

    I absolutely agree with with your article!
    I’m retired with about 28,000hrs, stopped counting around 25,000hrs.
    Started as a Connie S/O and retired as a 747 Capt. with various
    Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed and Airbus experiences.
    The 757 was, is and will be my favorite!
    The ‘bean counters” , the scourge of the aviation industry, are going
    to force Boeing to lose a very important market by not producing a
    great, new aircraft to improve upon the 757!
    Recently flew to the coast on *** HPN-ORD-PDX, on both 737 and A320.
    From a pax standpoint the A320 is much more comfortable!
    Thanks for the great article! I just hope Boeing builds a new winner!

  65. Mark W says:

    I’ve flown more than 1,200 domestic flights on United 737s and A320s in the last eight years, about a 50-50 split. From a passenger perspective, I prefer the 737 because it’s quieter. The widely cited cabin width advantage of the A320? I’ve never been able to discern it in practice. Frankly, from a passenger perspective, the differences between the two aircraft are overwhelmed by all the other stuff that an airline does to make a flight a tolerable, poor, or good experience. Seat quality, scheduling reliability, on-board service, gates, etc., those make the experience, not a difference in width I can’t even definitively identify.

    As a passenger, I loved the 757. Roomy, 24 seats in United first which meant an upgrade was almost a given for me, and the superquick takeoffs and climbouts were fun. Unfortunately other than United P.S. and the 300s, they’ve disappeared from domestic flights.

    • Alex says:

      I’ve noted the difference in cabin width. You can tell if you sit in a window seat in Y. On a Boeing NB your armrest and shoulder are right up against the sidewall, while on a single aisle Airbus you have a nice few inches of space there, enough to store a pillow or even a thin briefcase or laptop bag.

  66. Thomas D. says:

    “With 180 passengers on board, the can safely depart from a 7,000-foot runway … and fly clear across the country. Nothing else can do that.”
    The A340-300 can take off on a 7,000-ft. runway and then fly 300 pax trans-atlantic. Air France does it every day of the week, SXM to CDG. (Today the runway at SXM is 7,500 feet. In 2008 when I was in St. Martin for the first time, the runway was 7,000 ft long. My flight back to Europe was non-stop.)

    • Speed says:

      But can it make money with just 180 passengers on board? Not all trans-US city pairs can support 300.

      Interesting fact: The Singapore Airlines [A340-500] is the first aircraft to include a corpse cupboard, used for storing the body of a passenger who dies during a flight. (Wikipedia)

      • TJ says:

        Lower the price and sell more tickets.

        180 x $500 = $90,000 per 757 flight
        240 x $400 = $96,000 per 330/340 flight

        If I thought $500 for the 757 was too much and opted for another route with an intermediate stop, that $100 discount PLUS bigger plane and with some potential empty seats rather than fully packed, would be an easy choice.

        Side note, I love flying the 330/340s in a window seat, because they only have 2 seats on the window side in coach.

    • TNB50 says:

      You can see this, and also 757s, taking off & landing live for yourself at mahobeachcam.com. Also has sound, both ambient & ATC feeds. One of the most addictive aircraft-related sites I’ve seen.

    • Phoenix says:

      To add to Speed’s point: the A340 is very thirsty for the limited pax load. Any airline who flew them extensively during the time oil was $100 US/barrel couldn’t retire them fast enough.

  67. Mike B says:

    As a flyer, I couldn’t agree more. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear the worst flight I ever experienced was a 737 from Boston to Heathrow (AA I think). And it bucked like crazy through some unusually rough jetstream air. I came as close as I’ve ever come to a full on panic attack, closer than 9/11, closer than when I was cornered by ruffians as a kid. Worst flight ever. I had a bad feeling when I got on the plane, as it reminded me of the little shitbirds you ride to O’Hare or Atlanta, not meant to cross oceans.

    Why the hell wouldn’t they just keep making them, and tweak as needed.

  68. Tom R says:

    Next week I fly Delta across the country on a 737 (Sacramento to Atlanta), then 300 miles on a 757 (Atlanta to Daytona Beach). Seems backwards.

  69. paul says:

    The 73 does have a few things going for it: Pay a little extra cash, and you can get a higher rating on the engines that will take you in and out of most short runways. It handles real well on ice and snow. Unless you´re at max gross, it will outclimb a 60´s Fighter Jet. It flies higher than the Airbus competition and thus gets more direct routings and less weather.
    But most importantly it is the Energizer Bunny. Keeps on going and going and going …

  70. B737s says:

    FYI; Malaysia Airlines still fly 737-800s for its regional and some international routes

    • B737s says:

      …and by the way, I too think it is odd that Boeing already has an existing 757 airframe to use; but won’t update it, whereas they’d concentrate on milking 737s beyond what it was designed to do?

  71. Jeff C says:

    I love it when my flight is on a 757. I always try to book a flight that uses this plane. It just looks awesome compared to the stubby, squat 737. You feel like you’re on a “real” aircraft, not some glorified regional jet like the one’s that populate my home airport: CVG. It’s hard to believe that Boeing could let itself get out maneuvered by Airbus with the A380, and is at risk of this happening again due to their slavish devotion to the 737.

  72. John H says:

    You’ll be interested to hear that Norwegian Air Intl intends to start flying from Cork to Logan with 737s any day now. Or, at least, when the FAA stops prohibiting the route.

    It’s reported that they’re waiting on the newer 737 next year to also fly from Cork to Kennedy.

    • Mike says:

      Westjet (Canadian discount carrier) is also flying 737s from the east coast of Canada to Dublin, Gatwick and Glasgow.

      • Paul says:

        Mike, WS serves Gatwick with their “new” 767s, but you’re right, they’ve had TATL service on 737s for a few years now.

  73. Alex says:

    Airbus stepped up to the plate with the A321LR, but IMO Boeing made a huge mistake not replacing the 757. For years they tried to pass off the 739ER as an adequate shoe-filler but it has neither the performance nor the legs to do the 75’s more difficult missions.

    I mean, how hard would it have been to slap on new engines, a new interior and a glass cockpit and create a 757NG? They might’ve even been able to get away with keeping the old wing. If they didn’t think there was a market for it then they need to fire their market researchers.

    I hope they continue to sell a ton of 777s, 787s and 767Fs because Airbus is going to be the NB market leader for the foreseeable future.

    • Phoenix says:

      That’s a lot of engineering work right there. Think of all the times the Top Gear blokes uttered that exact phrase “How hard could it be?”

      A320 NEO project took 4 years from project approval to first flight. And as far as I can tell, this is a “simple” engine swap along with the ancillary improvements to the A320 since the legacy’s first flight….

      You’re asking much more to be done to the 757 my friend…

  74. Bruce says:

    The -200 is a very pretty airplane. The -300 is ugly AF though.

    • Alex says:

      The -200 is without a doubt the prettier of the sisters, but I always thought the -300 was nice looking as well. Problem is that extra length in fuselage completely destroys the plane’s exceptional performance.

      • Patrick says:

        The -300 is just a weird plane all around. The way I see it, they took a 767 and said, Okay, how can we ruin this? The result was the 757-300.

        • Dan Ullman says:

          In Boeing’s defense, the -300 happened when the McDonnell Douglas folks, after the merger,staged a brief coup.

    • Phoenix says:

      YOU ARE WRONG AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD (in respectful jest, of course)

      I find the 757-300 (and 767-400 and A340-600) very pretty. Maybe it’s the extra-tall supermodel equivalence? Maybe it’s the toothpick-with-wings proportions? I can’t put my finger on it…

  75. Ramon says:

    Copa flies an extremely popular service using 737-800 and -700 between Boston and LatAm via Panama. The reason that the service is popular is because of their price (which is reasonable and includes a 2 suitcase allowance as default) but also because the connections through their PTY hub are fast and efficient. Plus — who wants to deal with US domestic flights or airlines if you can get decent service in coach without the hassle of going through “bus stations” like MIA, IAH, or (god forbid) EWR? Sitting for 5 hours in a 757 isn’t any more comfortable than sitting in a 737 if you’re in the middle seat, 2 rows off from the bathroom.

  76. Dave M. says:

    I’ve never felt as cramped in my seat as I did on a Delta 757 OGG to LAX. I’m a little on the tall side (6’4″) but I could not sit with my knees in front of me. Had to keep my legs crossed at the ankles for the whole flight. I’ve never been on another plane that forced me to contort myself that way.

    I don’t get it though. It’s just a metal tube. A cabin is a cabin, right?

    In any case. SWA operates 737s mostly doesn’t it? I fly them a lot and haven’t experienced the same problem.

    • Speed says:

      Dave M. wrote, “I’ve never felt as cramped in my seat as I did on a Delta 757 OGG to LAX.”

      Your discomfort was a function of how many seats Delta decided to put into their 757. It has nothing to do with the airplane, its manufacturer or its design.

      Boeing designed and manufactured the airplane. Delta spec’d the interior.

      • Mike B says:

        I completely agree. Delta’s trim has always been among the worst. At 6’2″ I have no expectation of comfort in any coach seat. It is kind of cool that the new thing is for most people not to recline. I don’t care if they do – it’s within their, and my, right. But I’m glad they generally don’t.

      • rob colter says:

        OK but Boeing made it possible for Delta (and United, see my comment) to cram in so many seats that even a little guy like me can’t unlock his knees.

    • TJ says:

      SWA does away with first and premium and just gives all the seats extra legroom on their 737s – one of the deepest coach seat pitches in the industry. I wish I could fly SWA’s coach seat on long-haul flights, because their 32-inch seats would be much nicer for 8+ hours than the 29-30 I usually see in long-haul coach.

      • Patrick says:

        I’m not sure which airlines you’ve been flying, but the U.S. carriers all offer 30-32 inches of pitch in long-haul economy. Check SeatGuru for specs.

  77. Bill Sell says:

    Completely agree on the need for an updated 757. Great plane and I’ve flown on many. America West loved them and had them going everywhere. Just last week had a chance to fly a B6 321 and had the extra legroom center emergency exit window. Horrible seat – even added it to seatguru.com as a red not green seat. The exit door is deeper than the space around it eating into the “leg room” and the tray table and TV are from in the armrest. So the seat is inches narrower than the already bad Airbus seats, and the space in front is narrower due to the exit door bubble. 757s never had that problem. Too bad B6 is all against Boeing aircraft and stuck on the Airbus.

  78. Tony Nowikowski says:

    As a passenger who’s been flying primarily Delta for at least the past decade, the biggest problem I’ve had with the 757s I’ve been on (most, if not all of them ex-Northwest birds) is around in-seat amenities. None of them have had power outlets, either USB or AC, in Economy or “Comfort Plus”. Nor have any of them had seatback video; at best, you get the little overhead monitors to watch the (usually ehhhh) in-flight movie.
    At least a lot of the 737s I’ve flown have been better equipped on that score.

    • Speed says:

      Tony Nowikowski wrote about poor in-seat amenities in Delta 757s.

      These are determined by the operator (airline), not the manufacturer. Delta could upgrade their 757 interiors but has decided not to. Boeing built 757s from 1981 through 2004 so many were birthed before anyone had a need for power outletted seats.

      Related: Delta is known for making money by flying older aircraft that have been sold off/abandoned by other major airlines.

      Unlike other mainline US legacy carriers, Delta has decided that its best path to profitability is a strategy that utilizes older aircraft, and Delta has created a very extensive MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) organization, called TechOps, to support them. The oldest aircraft in the fleet are the McDonnell Douglas MD-88s.

      • WildaBeast says:

        Delta actually has been upgrading the cabins on their 757s — SeatGuru shows 9 (!) different cabin configurations for their 757-200 and 2 for the stretched -300. Some of them have power outlets and in-seat video, and others don’t. The ex-Northwest ones are the 75M and 75N. They might not have bothered upgrading them because I believe they’re the oldest 757s in the fleet so they might not plan to keep them around as long. While they do like to keep older planes around even Delta has a point where a plane is deemed no longer economically viable to keep flying. And I think that while newer on average, their oldest 757s are older than their oldest MD-88s.


    • Patrick says:

      Actually Delta has upgraded the economy sections on many of its 757s. Those used on transcon routes, and on flights to Europe, all have refurbished cabins with in-seat video, USB and power ports. The business class cabins now have lie-flat seats in a surprisingly comfortable 2X2 configuration.

      • WildaBeast says:

        In fact I just flew two legs on Delta 757s last weekend, a short 1 hour hop and a longer 4.5 hour flight. Both had the new refurbished cabins, and I have to say they were very nice, even in economy.

        The only negative was that due to the length of the plane the FAs didn’t have time to finish the beverage service on the 1 hour flight.

  79. Mark Maslowski says:

    Nice article. As much as I loved the iconic 707 growing up, I’ve always thought that the 757 is what a real airplane should look like!

  80. Roger says:

    The 757’s specs have been referred to as MOM – middle of market, as they are above the 737/A320 but below 767/787/A330. There were numerous articles by the aviation pundits over the last year about doing a new MOM.

    The general consensus was that restarting manufacturing of the 757 was impossible (all the tooling and expertise is gone). The 737 could repeatedly be updated because (astonishingly) the same type certificate could be reused each time reducing the development effort.

    A new MOM would be highly expensive to develop, and there is considerable overlap with the models above and below. The market estimate was selling between a few hundred and one thousand, which is nowhere near enough to justify the costs. Note that this applies to both Boeing and Airbus.

    For further reading I recommend https://leehamnews.com/?s=mom

    • Dan Ullman says:

      I would doubt if the tooling is gone. While I cannot speak of Boeing, I did work for a number of years at a plastics plant that was a subcontractor to Boeing. They had injection molds for the 707 and 727 when I left the firm in 1998. You don’t get rid of tooling simply because you have ceased production.

    • Phoenix says:

      As well, Boeing’s engineering team has their hands full. They’re working on 1) 737 MAX 9 and 200; 2) 787 stretch (-10); and 3) 777X (two variants). If Boeing is going to green-light a new MOM, the earliest we see physical product is 2025.

  81. CS says:

    The A321LR (variant of A321neo) actually has more range than the b757 without winglets

    • Patrick says:

      Maybe, but how does it compare to the 757ER, with winglets? Those are the jets that UA and DL fly long(ish)-haul.

      • CS says:

        Pretty sure the range for the A321neo is 7400km, which is higher than the 757-300 (w/ winglets) and the 757-200 without them. But, the 757-200 (w/ winglets) has 200km more range (if I remember correctly). In my opinion, I think that 7400km is enough for transoceanic routes, especially when the CASM of the a321 is lower than the 757.

  82. MW says:

    The market for 737-sized airliners is huge, so I’m really quite surprised that Boeing hasn’t launched a clean-sheet 737 replacement some time ago – e.g. instead of the 787. With so many potential orders to amortize the development costs, a new largely composite materials airliner, a bit wider and with the capability to stretch a bit bigger than the 737 seems the obvious next target for an all-new Boeing. A big problem for the 737 line is that the landing gear is not tall enough to easily fit modern high bypass engines – a new model would fix this. With the 787 somewhat larger than the 767, there is space for a larger-than-737 replacement, allowing the 767 to be phased out.

    Thanks to Speed for pointing out the “NMA” program – I’d missed that, and it looks interesting.

    The 757 always struck me as a somewhat odd plane. I think the wings are in common with the 767, so they are very large for the size of the plane. It always seemed to me a poor fit for the Boeing product line – it doesn’t take many more passengers than a 737 yet is much more expensive. There didn’t really seem enough space between 737 and 767 to fit another model. (I’m sure many here know more about this than I do, so corrections are welcome.)

    • Mitch says:

      MW, the 757’s wing is unique, smaller than the 767’s, sized for the former’s weight, range, and speed. However, the 757 shares its flight deck with the 767. That enables pilots, Patrick included, to fly both aircraft with a single type rating

      • Patrick says:

        Yup. The cockpit instrumentation is extremely similar (the 767’s cockpit is roomier, among minor differences), but the wings actually are pretty different. The planes fly differently, too. Although it’s bigger and heavier, the 767 is much lighter on the controls, thanks in part to the inboard ailerons that the 757 doesn’t have. They land differently as well. For whatever reason I tend to make better landings in the 757 than in the 767. For most pilots the opposite is true.

    • Phoenix says:

      Boeing did propose a clean-sheet small narrowbody after the 737NG, codenamed Y1, thinking airlines would wait for a clean-sheet design . Once AIB launched the A320 NEO program and racked up orders (including AA – said to be the straw that broke Boeing’s back) they reversed course and opted for the MAX re-engine.

      Also: the 787 is roughly equal in size and range to the 767, but what it offers is better operating economics and passenger experience. Yes Boeing planned to quickly supercede the 767 with the Dreamliner but delays and cost overruns with the program hit the spoilers on that.

  83. Tod Davis says:

    The 737 is still very much the main player in Australia, however both Qantas and Virgin Australia are using more regionals lately and wide body jets are used a bit between Sydney and Perth

  84. Mitch says:

    As a passenger, I [and many others] have preferred the 767’s 2-3-2 seating and vertical sidewall over any other twin-aisle or 3-3 single aisle. That is especially true on 5-10 hour trips like US transcon, between the mainland and Hawaii, or between the US east coast and Europe.

    Is the 767-200’s stubby fuselage a problem? The 747SP was 47 ft shorter than the 747-100/-200 but it cruised faster – M.85 vs. M.84. The area ruling was better with the short fuselage. A 767NEO should cruise a bit faster than the 767-200’s M.80-M.82. That would be determined mostly by the new wing’s shape [aspect ratio, sweepback, cross section and wingtip] plus local fuselage drag reduction [nose cone, wing-body fairing; tail cone]

    To summarize: a new Boeing MOM airplane based on the 767-200 fuselage, a smaller composite wing and tail, powered by 40K GTF’s, might just work. All of us armchair designers must let Boeing decide. They have the expertise and the money, but do they have the will? Time is running out. The 737-9MAX is neither viable nor realistic competition; its performance and sales are much inferior to the A321NEO’s

    • Patrick says:

      The 767-200 didn’t have good enough economies of scale, and so it was doomed. The -200ER had an enormous range, sure, but you couldn’t fit even 200 seats into the thing. It’s hard to make a profit on routes that long with so few passengers. (The 747SP suffered a similar fate once it was pretty much matched, performance-wise, by the 747-200.) However, with today’s engine technology, I’m thinking that a 767-200 sized plane would make a great 757 replacement. A wide cabin, which people really like, but short-bodied. Something along the lines of the A310.

      • Mitch says:

        In the USA, the 767-200 was originally a medium-range domestic airplane. As such, domestic operators configured their first -200’s [non-ER’s] at up to 210 seats, First class 2-2-2 at 36-38 inch pitch and Tourist 2-3-2 at 31-34 inch pitch.

        • Patrick says:

          Right. It was only a year or so ago that AA retired the last of its -200s, which in the end were flying exclusively between JFK and LAX in a three-class layout.

      • Mitch says:

        A reminder to those commenting on the tight squeeze in 757’s, 737’s and A321’s – seat comfort and seat pitch are specified by the airline, not the manufacturer. As long as the seat and the interior arrangement meet FAA-required crashworthiness, aisle width and egress rules, the airline decides.

        That said, my most recent flight was on a brand new Delta 737-900ER JFK-SEA. The seating was awful.

        • Craig says:

          Like many Untied Airlines passengers, I cringe when I realize my flight is on one of the new 737s. I don’t know about the technical details of flying these beasts, but Untied has reduced Economy “Plus” seating specs to match what Economy Minus used to be – you can’t open a normal laptop and work it anymore. It’s now an awful plane to ride in.

          On the plus side, though, they stopped with the TVs on the new planes as they realized most people have their own electronic viewers, so instead offer WiFi streaming (which sometimes even works). The best part of this is that it greatly reduces the amount of time spent shouting at passengers. On the older planes with TVs you get shouted at about DirectTV, shouted at about how great United is, shouted at during the extended play safety video which is mildly humorous only the first time you see it, and shouted at during the paid ads after that.

  85. Mitch says:


    That said, IMO Boeing can’t wait until the next decade. The A321NEO is not yet in service but it
    has already outsold the 757’s entire 1983-2005 twenty-two-year production. As Patrick has noted, the as-is 737MAX’s are at a dead end. Anything bigger and longer-range than the -900MAX would need who knows how many years and how many $$billions: bigger engines, longer landing gear, new wheel wells, a larger wing [extended or new], another pair of entry doors for easier loading and increased FAA exit-limited capacity, plus new mid-cabin galleys and/or lavs. Also more fuel, increased takeoff weight and on and on. Guess what – we have just redefined the 757, but with a new engine. Oops

    Other forums have suggested a derivative of the twin-aisle short-body 767-200 as a replacement. The back-of-the-envelope guess is – maybe. The existing 767’s empty weight is much more than the 757’s and its wing is too big and heavy. The original 767 wing was sized for the long range 395,000 lb 767-200ER and longer 412,000 lb MTOW 767-300ER. Any MOM 767NEO would need a new smaller and lighter composite wing. P&WA says they can do 40,000 lb-thrust GTF’s – anything bigger would be too big. More efficient engines mean less fuel tankage. Lower thrust means a smaller tail, probably also composite. These requirements reduce empty weight and max takeoff weight

  86. Mitch says:

    [long comment, first part. Patrick, I hope that’s OK]
    The 737 and 757 have the same cabin cross section, shared with and derived from the 707 and 727. The 737/757 vs. A320/321 cabin widths are not that different: Airbus is 6 inches wider but that’s just above the floor. Boeing’s max width is at the window belt. Airbus can have half-inch wider seats but only if the window seat passenger’s head and shoulders are very close to the sidewall.

    The 757 shares its flight deck with the wider 767, giving the 757 a larger flight deck than the 737. Also wider because, unlike the 737, the 757 fuselage did not start to taper until the forward entry door. The flight deck is also longer. In the early 1990’s, there was some thought given to using the 757’s flight deck on the then-new 737NG, but that concept was rejected because of cost, weight, and possible loss of a type rating common to all previous 737’s.

    Boeing pulled the plug on the 757 in 2003 due to a lack of orders. The last of 1,050 757’s was delivered in 2005. All the tooling was scrapped. The Renton engineering, production and assembly facilities were partly converted to 737 and P-8 use but mostly razed and the land sold to commercial and residential developers. So, there is no way to restart a line to make a 757MAX. Many 757’s are being converted to freighters for FEDEX, DHL, and other shippers. Others have been or will be scrapped. Too bad – the 757 is indeed a good-looking and unique airplane

  87. Speed says:

    My recollection is that before Airbus launched the A320neo, Boeing wasn’t going to build another 737 derivative … what became the 737 MAX. Rather they were set to design and build an entirely new airplane which in some variant could “replace” the 757. Instead money and engineering and manufacturing resources were spent on the MAX.

    This from Aviation Week in November 2015 …

    The embryonic “757-replacement” NMA [New Midsize Airplane] study is for an aircraft with more capacity than the 737-900ER/737-9 but with less range than the 787. Speaking at events surrounding the Dubai Airshow, John Wojick, senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says: “We see substantial demand. If we can produce an airplane with a range of 4,500-5,000 nm, seating about 220-280 passengers, then there would be an awful lot of demand. I’d say in the thousands. Easily more than 2,000.”

    [ … ]

    The NMA is in line for possible development beyond the current committed commercial development programs. “We have got to finish the MAX family, which begins to deliver in 2017, then we have the 787-10 in 2018 and the 777X in 2020 (777-9X) and 2022 (777-8X). Beyond that, we have been studying opportunities to enhance our product lines going forward. It is very clear to us that there is an interest in an aircraft larger than MAX in terms of seats but with less range than the 787,” adds Wojick.

    • When a business says “It is very clear to us [that our customers want thus-and-such, etc.]…”, it means that they have no idea how to deliver it, and/or that there is serious internal conflict within the organization as to whether it is a good idea. In either case, if the product is delivered, it will be late, and probably not good.

      Businesses that have their product pipeline under control do not need to say such things, because the right product is already known to be in development and on track.