The 757 has been a part of many airlines for over 30 years, and yet this old bird still competes well with other aircraft. Regardless of the -300 variant production which was a bit more recent than 1984, all 757 production halted in the early 2000’s. So what happened?
In the 1970’s Boeing was surviving through sales of the 737 and 747. The oil crisis crippled the airline industry, and even led to the downfall of one of the most iconic airlines ever, Pan-Am. For nearly a decade now Boeing had not come out with a new airliner, and they needed something to compete with new companies such as Airbus. The a300 was sure enough a success for the Euro company, and the revolutionary design of their widebody jetliner with only two power plants made it much more efficient than aircraft such as the Dc-10. It was also smaller than the 747 and sat in the perfect gap between jumbo jets and narrow body aircraft.
Boeing needed an American competitor for this new design. They came up with the 767, a similar design to the a300. Similar size as well as the two-jet plan created an aircraft that could compete well. The problem was they were nearly a decade late. The 767 wasn’t enough, so they created a nearly identical aircraft dubbed the 757. It was almost the exact same aircraft but a narrow body rather than wide. It also had a choice between two different jet options which were suberb. Unlike the 737, which now was in the “classics” generation, the 757 could take off and reach cruising altitude without stacking the climb. The impressive preformance made the model popular in smaller airports such as John Wayne airport with only 5700 feet of runway. This could allow larger amounts of passengers to fly farther distances from smaller locations. It even had the range to fly across the pond from locations like D.C, unlike the 737. It was perfect for airlines in robust locations like Iceland, where airlines could fly all the way to Denver from Iceland in a narrow body jet.
It was one of the workhorses for many airlines for 30 years, mainly used in the u.s for flights such as Los Angeles to NYC. Today, the 757 still has incredible preformance compared to the 737. The newest generation is called “max” for a reason- they can’t do anything else to the poor thing. It’s a design of 50 years trying to compete with others maybe 20 years old. If you’ve ever seen a recent 737 try to get off the ground completely full, it’s pretty funny. It has the rotation speed of a jumbo jet when full, and that’s really not what it was designed for. The 757 can launch like a rocket off the runway and climbs out at 4000 vs. You’d stall a 737 even trying that.
The future for the 757 is unclear, whether the new mid size aircraft Boeing is creating will be dubbed a 757max or a completely new aircraft. There’s a reason why so many hold the 757 dear to their hearts. Sure, it’s louder than a lot of aircraft today and might not be quite as efficient compared to newer competition, but airlines will not let them go until necessary.