Boeing vice-president Randy Tinseth says the company has studied reviving and re-engining the 757 “a couple” of times, but concluded that the economics do not make sense.
“We’re not studying 757 re-engined replacements right now. It just doesn’t work,” says Tinseth, addressing the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) conference in Seattle.
Tinseth was asked to respond to a report in the Wall Street Journal that cited a source within Boeing saying a re-engined 757 was one option being considered as the company’s response to the long-range Airbus A321neo.
“No, no,” Tinseth replied.
In Boeing’s view, the 757 replacement market is limited. There are 550 passenger-carrying 757s still in operation, Tinseth says, excluding about 200-250 freighters. Of that market, only about 50-80 are flying trans-atlantic routes that exceed the maximum range of the 737 Max 9 or baseline A320neo.
Instead of focusing on a 757 replacement, Boeing is looking more broadly at the market for an aircraft that can fill the space between the 737 Max 9 and the 787-8.
“We’ve been talking to our customers and they want an airplane that’s bigger than today’s 757 and flies further – probably 20% further,” says Tinseth. “We are trying to figure out what that means, what that airplane would look like.”
With the KC-46, 737 Max, 787-10 and 777X still in development, Boeing’s research and development resources are occupied through at least 2022, Tinseth adds.
“So we’ve got some time to do it and we’ll take a real hard look,” Tinseth says.
Another barrier to reviving 757 production is that programme’s outdated and expensive assembly process, Tinseth says.
The 757 was assembled in Renton, Washington, alongside the 737, but as a longer and taller aircraft it required different tooling.
“That airplane had a unique very unique production system. It was relatively expensive to build compared to the 737,” Tinseth says. “The business case is just not going to close.”
One potential advantage, however, in favour of reviving the 757 is the certification programme. A clean-sheet designs requires a completely new type certificate. Re-engining an existing model can be done using an amended type certificate. It was not clear, however, if the US Federal Aviation Administration allows a manufacturer to amend a type certificate for an out-of-production aircraft.
An FAA spokesman, however, confirms that the agency’s regulations allowing amended type certificates extend to cover models that are no longer in production.