The Boeing 757. Like it or not, a LOT of us have flown on them. From its origins as a replacement for the 727 series (in which the 757 was “too big” for the job), to its original use of shuttle lots people in a metal tube from one place to another, to it’s later life as the aircraft of choice for running long and thin routes (eg Dublin to Newark, Manchester to New York JFK, New York to Hawaii), it’s been the workhorse of many an airline.
For those who loved the 757, production ended in October 2004.
And there’s been a gap in the market as airlines are adapting 757’s to different missions than originally intended.
Two aircraft are trying to fill the gap – the 737-900ER and the Airbus A321. The problems with these aircraft is that neither has the perfect blend of range and load that makes operating thin and long routes profitable.. or in fact possible in some cases.
Boeing has worked out this is a hole in the market that could happen, and studies are happening internally at Boeing to see if it’s possible.
How this could manifest is either be an enhancement of the upcoming 737-MAX Series- possibly looking towards the 737-9MAX series. According to Boeing, most 757 replacements will be 737-MAX’s.
Comparing capacities, the Boeing 737-900ER can hand 174 in a typical 2-class layout, with a range of 3,265 nautical miles, whilst a 757-200 can handle 200 in a two-class layout, with a range of 3,900 nautical miles.
As the 737-MAX specification hasn’t been laid down other than in vague terms, the 737-9MAX would have to near or exceed both of the 757’s core competences. Boeing hope to pin down the specifications of the 737-MAX
Boeing’s main sales in the 737-NG series have been the venerable 737-700’s and 737-800’s, and is hoping that a re-versioning of the 737 with new engines will increase sales further.
There was the option of a shortened 787 that may fill the gap. However, this in itself has problems – least of all for the costs to operate the aircraft (a 737 costs a lot less to land than a 787), the space this kind of aircraft would take at the gate (which would be more than a 737), and that the idea has been floated before as the 787-3 (which was aimed at Japanese markets, and flopped due to Boeing’s delays over the 787 project).
It’ll be interesting to see if the 737-9MAX delivers… or not.