Paris Air Show

A final farewell to the Boeing 757

 - December 12, 2006, 10:39 AM

The 1,050th and last 757 airliner took off from Boeing’s Renton, Washington assembly plant for delivery to Shanghai Airlines on April 28, some 23 years after the company ferried the first of the single-aisle workhorses to launch customer Eastern Airlines. But out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind for Boeing. Fifty-five operators still fly some 1,000 of the twinjets, many of which will need upkeep for decades to come.

In a twist of irony, the last 757 built is also the first and only one delivered to meet the new Chapter 4 noise standards that take effect on Jan. 1, 2006. At the time of its introduction in 1982, the 757 earned a reputation as a high-tech wonder, meeting Chapter 3 noise standards by a wide margin and burning fuel at a far lower rate than any other airplane in its size category. The model introduced a new wing design that significantly reduced drag and newly developed high-bypass-ratio turbofan engines and computers that allowed it to run at peak efficiency throughout its flight.

Sadly for those with a soft spot in their hearts for the venerable twin, sales of the past few years dwindled to virtually nil as operators gravitated to even more efficient, high-capacity 737s. Typically configured in a 200-seat layout, the 757-200 seats only 20 or so more passengers than the 737-900. Perhaps more significantly, the 737-900’s 3,200-nm reach allows it to fly between virtually any two points within the traditional domain of the 757, most notably the continental U.S.