The Boeing 757 has had a lengthy career within the aviation industry. Today, the aircraft remains a staple for select operators around the world.
Alongside the Boeing 767, some carriers and analysts would argue that these two aircraft types have always lacked an ideal replacement from the American plane maker.
Understanding The Boeing 757X Idea
Discussions, therefore, surrounding a 757X or 757 MAX have always been somewhat present. How valid they are within the industry, as in fabricating into something firm, is another story.
In addition, though, those discussions over a re-engine to the 757 have switched from it being a pure 757 replacement to also being a replacement for the 737 series per some analysts through the years.
Why the 737 series? Well, right before the pandemic, Boeing’s latest endeavour in the long-standing family incurred problems that led to a significant grounding. These tragedies also revealed crucial design flaws in the body as Boeing attempted to rush the design and prioritise profits over safety.
At one point during the grounding, there was a lot of challenging but open dialogue about replacing the 737, and maybe it was time to give up the tired design. Obviously, this didn’t end up happening, but it must be said that discussion was present, and there were also talks over how a re-engine to 757 may be the best of both worlds for customers.
Boeing explored potential ways in the past to adapt the 757 or 737 into more efficient types. However, like several other studies, this didn’t ultimately continue.
Some would argue the closest we’ll ever really get to a 757 replacement at this point is with the higher capacity MAX aircraft, such as the 737-10. The 737-10 has a longer length to it but ultimately is considered by many operators to be an adequate 757 replacement.
The Boeing 757, though, has always offered airlines that X factor. An X factor that has seen in the decade’s gone carriers flock to the program. Its wide range of capabilities has meant it could be utilised across various missions on a complex route network, too.
The Rise Of Airbus And The A321
With Boeing choosing against progressing with a dedicated 757 replacement, it has allowed Airbus to move with its endeavour.
Airbus has gone down a route that sees their A321 program, a single-aisle aircraft that is part of the A320 family, continue to be developed into new variants such as the A321neo, the A321LR, and the upcoming A321XLR.
In a way, it means that these jets can now fly transatlantic missions and appeal to new carriers that maybe the series wouldn’t have initially. These longer-range services suggest that, in some capacity, it can act as a replacement for the 757 and be a more efficient and cheaper alternative for airlines.
Boeing’s lack of replacement to the 757, paired with the non-existent ability of the MAX to operate similar missions, means that unfortunately for Boeing, their counterpart Airbus has this market pretty much wrapped up.
It also shows that Airbus is moving ahead uncontested, which means they can continue developing their A321 series to fill all the potential niches unrivalled.
Roadblocks To Further Boeing 757 Development
So let’s say, though, we did want to develop the 757 further. Well, there are immediate roadblocks that would prevent it from being an easy solution. The 757 production ceased nearly two decades ago, in 2004.
As a result of the 757’s production ceasing, critical facilities that house the 757 aren’t in place anymore, while supply chains that once worked in tandem to produce a 757 as a flying aircraft have also moved on.
This means that getting the program up and running, even if it were just for a simple re-engine, would cost an abundance of money, and to do so would see a dated body utilised, too. The argument for a dated body being used also ties in with some of the key criticisms towards the 737 MAX.
The manufacturer used shortcuts by not redesigning the aircraft and finding ways to boost efficiency and cut costs with the placement of engines while using the same fuselage.
Resuming the 757’s production while keeping a multi-decade-old design would seem, in a way, hypocritical given all that’s taken place across recent history.
Boeing’s Next New Aircraft Is Some Time Away
Timing is also another factor. Boeing has already revealed that they won’t return to the drawing board for a new airliner until the 2030s.
This is when they see technology as having improved. Yes, there are risks associated with waiting as technology may not be ready, and then Boeing is left in a difficult position.
Hypothetically, if they ignored this and did move forward now, would it be worth it? The 737 MAX is thriving commercially despite supply chain issues, and any new jet would take years before it’s cleared. That also ignores all the planning stages that need to happen for a plane and testing.
The truth is, analysts have repeated that Boeing missed the boat for a new jet, and now waiting for this new technology is their only valid option.
Understanding That Sometimes Ideas Are Just Ideas
If the company were intending to replace the 737 with an updated 757, well, then some would argue it would’ve been done at the lowest point of the MAX program. This is likely during the lengthy groundings.
However, Boeing moved on with their MAX, knowing it was always set to rebound. Additionally, the plane maker was determined to get the plane re-approved with an already significant backlog.
While many would have liked to see the 757 take over the 737, limitations and much more have all meant that’s impossible. Boeing moving ahead with a future small aeroplane or FSA, as it would have been known, makes a lot more sense.
Sometimes, it’s better to leave aircraft in the past. However, no doubt the 757’s capabilities will be an essential focus for Boeing in their next era moving ahead.
The future is bright nonetheless, and Boeing will be hard at work plotting their next moves in the industry. But what that is remains to be seen.