The Boeing 767, arguably the best aircraft ever designed. It has been produced 1,178 times since first launched in 1981 with still over 700 airframes in service it has proven its longevity. After almost 40 years since its first flight its production rates are only getting higher, but why?
Boeings 767 is one the finest aircraft to have ever graced our skies and with these new orders, it could still be gracing them by the late 2040s. The fact is that amidst all of Boeing’s problems currently it has a few shining lights and one of those is the continued demand for the 767. Passenger production of the aircraft stopped in the early 2010s after the 787 Dreamliners introduction however non-passenger orders of the aircraft continued to come in. In 2018 Boeing announced an increase in the aircraft’s production rate to 3 per month which is 3 more then Boeings revolutionary 737 MAX. 2 weeks ago however FedEx received it’s first 767 under the new production rate so calm it’s not a duplicate. But why? Why is an aircraft that passenger airlines are desperately trying to get rid of so attractive to others?
Firstly, the demand for air freight is increasing. Cargo airlines need more flights to carry the increased cargo that has come about during the internet shopping age. For example, more pairs of boots are being shipped from Bejing to Kansas in 2020 than in 2014. Secondly, ageing fleets. DC-10’s are getting extremely old, even for cargo airlines. One DC-10 I found on FlightRader 24 was 44 years old yet still operating for FedEx and since the fuel efficiency doesn’t really bother them and upfront price is more important (which would be cheap anyway). Yet all of this “age” thing is nothing compared to the military version of the 767. The KC-46 is the replacement for the KC-35, which was produced from 1955 to 1965 and basically the military version of the Boeing 707. To put that in perspective, the last passenger 707 to fly in the US was in 1983 by the now-defunct Trans World Airlines, this trend of 40 odd years behind for the military sees the 767 being operated until at least 2060.
In total, the orders for the 767-300 Freighter stands at 54 for FedEx while the KC-46 Miltary version order list stands at 40 for various countries, most notably the US. Time will tell how long the 767 sticks around, it could still be flying near the start of next century if orders continue the way they are going currently. It’s a testament to the design and reliability of one of Boeing’s greatest aircraft.
One of FedEx’s many 767-300 Freighters full image credit