Should Boeing Re-Engine The 767?

Daniel Fowkes
08 Feb 2024
· Aircraft 
· Analysis 
Should Boeing have moved forward with a re-engine of its 767 series to compete with Airbus and offer airlines better efficiency?

The re-engine of a beloved aircraft such as the 767 will always be a topic of focus within the industry. In some instances, these discussions hold more substantial weight than others. However, ultimately, a lot of the talk results in no action.

Boeing’s 767 series is an aircraft that changed how twin-engine air travel was perceived, and many would argue it paved the way for the twin-engine widebodies era.

The aircraft has also been much the subject of discussion surrounding a re-engine, the industry’s ramifications, and whether a new variant would be worthwhile.

A Re-Engine 767 Freighter?

Ultimately, the most reputable reports came in 2019 when Flightglobal discussed Boeing’s exploration of new engines being adopted to their 767 Freighter. At the time, the 767F was receiving substantial orders and interest in a market segment that required a type such as this.

Given the designation as a 767-XF at the time, this proposal focused on enhancing efficiency on a reliable aircraft type without breaking the bank and making significant structural changes.

The view was to implement GEnx engines onto the body and find ways to preserve the integrity of the aircraft wherever possible, obviously without making too many changes that a clean sheet would make more sense.

Ultimately, this approach aimed at mitigating costs and providing a short to medium-term solution for airlines seeking an improved middle-of-the-market option for their freighter needs. With this came further discussions around the potential of a passenger version re-engine.

If pulled off, such a re-engine would’ve aimed at addressing that gap in the middle of the market, which in the late 2010s was being heavily debated by the American plane maker as Airbus was making their initial strides into taking market share. 

Thanks to Boeing not developing a new middle of the market airliner dubbed the 797 Airbus has been able to enhance its A321neo series with the A321LR and A321XLR announced and released.

The Response To Airbus’ Success

Despite trying to navigate a crisis in which their highest-selling and most crucial aircraft was grounded, Boeing was also under a lot of pressure to respond.

Would it be in the form of an expensive clean sheet, or would they take a route such as seen with the MAX and push an existing airframe to the limits with new engines, collect sales and re-asses in 10-15 years?

Industry analysts believed a re-engine may have been a more compelling airline option. Why, exactly? Well, if it proceeded with a 767 re-engine, the expectation is there wouldn’t be as many resources from time to cost in comparison to a clean sheet, and this would’ve allowed for more asset allocation to help create the future 737 replacement.

An Important Aircraft

The Boeing 767 holds a pretty important position in the industry for several carriers. You can’t deny the reality that it is a plane that has seen its glory days come to a close, at least for passenger operations.

While some airlines are still flying the series around the world, across the last 5-10 years, several high-profile companies have bid farewell to the type in favour of more fuel-efficient and technologically advanced aircraft that will bring them more significant returns.

A United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER arriving into London Heathrow
Photo credit: Anna Zvereva

Despite a dwindling presence with passenger airlines, the 767’s enduring relevance is particularly evident in its Freighter and Tanker operations, providing a lifeline for the program and giving it a new lease on life where it can be successful.

767 Re-Engine Advantages?

While potential advantages of a 767 re-engine were addressed during the 2019 study, the absence of firm movements from the plane maker following these initial discussions can suggest several things.

Still, many would broadly identify the lack of a desire to move forward because the negatives outweigh the positives, whether related to finances, time, resources, or the desire of suppliers, airlines, engine manufacturers, and others to proceed.

For instance, could the space where a re-engine would be built be better used? Several crucial considerations must be made.

Time Not On Boeing’s Side

Time is another crucial factor. The International Civil Aviation Organization standards set for 2028 pose a looming deadline for producing the 767 Freighter, among other Boeing freighters.

This regulatory constraint limits the window for any re-engine initiative. While not a clean sheet, any adjustment to an existing aircraft with a deadline thus has a much more limited window for sales, and when factoring in development, certification and more, is it truly worth it? Especially considering Boeing’s studies to produce a new airliner in the 2030s that would harbour better efficiency, ground-breaking technology, and such.  

Another factor that can be considered is Boeing’s last five years. While always going to be hypothetical, would their stance on several things have changed had the incidents and downfall not taken place?

So, should Boeing re-engine the 767 for passenger usage? Well, if Boeing truly desired this outcome, it likely would’ve already happened.

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