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June 19, 2024
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The two big OEMs tell us they have a ”natural” replacement for the 757 — the A321neo and 737-9MAX. Unfortunately, neither option appears optimal, as both fall short on range, payload, and runway performance.  Is there a market for a true 757 replacement, and should this be the next airplane developed by Boeing or Airbus?  Let’s take a look at the 757 market, operators and outlook.

The current status of 757 fleet is that 1,049 were delivered, and 986 are still flying. The following table lists the active fleet by the largest 757 operators. A total of 63 aircraft, or 6.4% of the fleet is parked and more than half of those aircraft are currently parked by the largest operators.

The typical ranges flown by these aircraft are displayed below.  The 757-200 has a range of 3,900 miles without winglets and 4,100 miles with winglets. The 757-300 numbers are 3,395 and 3,595 respectively.  While most operators utilize the 757 domestically, quite a few operators utilize the 757 on transatlantic services.  The benefit of the extended range for this aircraft is the capability to utilize the aircraft on long-thin routes.  Transatlantic operations with the A321 and 737-900, and A321neo and 737-9MAX will remain difficult, but are easy for the 757.

As a result, airlines would keep the 757 in service if costs were not rising for the aging fleet. The 757-200 passenger fleet is on average 19 years old, the 757F fleet averages at about 21 years and the 757-300 passenger fleet averages at 11.5 years old.  There are only 55 757-300s in service.

Operating costs for the 757 continue to rise as the aircraft ages.  The following chart shows hourly operating costs from US DOT Form 41 for operations by US airlines.


The 757 operating costs are rising and we expect, all things being equal, that in five years’ time the typical 757 will start to reach operating costs at the level of current 777-200s, clearly becoming uneconomical.

We can say with some confidence that the 757 is aging and that decisions on replacement need to be made, especially given the lead times on new aircraft such as the A321neo and 737-900MAX.  Buying an A321ceo or a 737-900ER would not be an optimal replacement decision given the availability of more efficient aircraft. Unfortunately, the 757-200 does not have a natural replacement among the current options.  Moreover, there are nearly 1,000 757s needing replacement.  That is not an insignificant market.

With both major airframers focusing on derivatives, can Airbus add more fuel capacity and range to the A321?  Should Boeing rethink its 787-3 option as a potential replacement for the 757, as it had planned similar capacity?   Or is this an opportunity for somebody else?  We think this could be an opportunity for the Yak 242-400 (formerly known as the MC-21).  The prototype is supposed to be unveiled in 2015.  Although the Russian aerospace industry is not transparent enough to know the true status of the program, it will use the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine that should deliver excellent economics, and Sukhoi is responsible for a superb looking and highly aerodynamic wing.  If UAC, the new Russian national aerospace company, could get through red tape faster, we might be more confident that an airplane could be indeed be unveiled in 2015.

The market is clearly looking for a 757 replacement and neither the A321neo nor 737-9MAX achieve the combination of capacity and range that the 757 offers.  UAC could do well in this segment, if it can deliver with the Yak-242.  But this will require a substantial cultural change, including program transparency and better marketing and support for airline customers. Could a new player develop the solution the airlines are looking for?  Stay tuned, as on paper, the Yak242-400 is closer to a 757 replacement than either the A321neo or 737-9MAX. Of course that requires many hurdles to be crossed, not the least being FAA certification. The delay in the SSJ being put through FAA certification is noteworthy.

9 thoughts on “Replacing the 757

  1. I am not sure the Russians are able to effect such a cultural change unless they team up with a western OEM. The B757 is aging but its asset cost is relatively low compared to the comparable NEO or MAX and especially the B787. If Delta feels it can make money with the MD80s then the B757 should not pose such a financial burden.

  2. I often wondered if an upgraded engine would do the trick, as nothing has been done in the powerplant section for years. Look how often the 737 has been re-engined over the years and still is a best seller and is older than the 757.
    Maybe new engines and a new wing could breath new life in a great versatile airliner that has no equal.
    No NEO or MAX will do transcons off the John Wayne airport in Orange county runway at 5700 feet.

  3. The reality is if a hull does not exist airlines find a way to work around it or simply not do it. What they want and what they need are two differen animals. If they are all in the same boat then they all have to come up with the same solution set of options, even if its we have to do without as the economics do not work for a given route.

    There are not 1000 757s that need to be replaced. Things have changed.

    The 737s and A320s have taken over the lower range (note Alaska Airlines is flying 737s to Hawaii from Anchorage AK, Seattle ).

    As they are more optimized for their missions no 757 replacement could take back those positions they have moved up into.

    No one is going to buy a few airplanes for a minimum need. Great plane that should have been upgraded and kept in production but Boeings Chicago management could care less as they are no longer an aircraft company (what Boeing is turning into is another story).

    The freighters are a zero option game as the vast majority of the new builds were for UPS and keeping in mind FedEx has used converted -200s to replace their 727s (now that was an old if loved airframe!)
    In other words, there is NO freighter market that would not be filled by retired and converted 200s.

    757-300s are not enough of a market to do anything with.

    Russia can’t make a short range Super Jet that is reliable so what hopes are there for the it looks good on paper MC-21? Zero. And when would they get a lame model flying? 15 years from now?

    Frankly that leaves a 787-8 (or a derivative for new) and a 767-200 for old if the routes justify it. New 787 at 180 million would have to return a lot of bucks to pay and unlikely. 757s will keep on until they don’t work. Low cost to pick up and per Delta, if you get it cheap enough, it don’t matter if it burns a bit more fuel.

    Operators took advantage of the 757 capability and they will quit the routes when the economics cease to pan out, few if any have routes that justify a 787-8 cost or even a derated one (and good luck getting one for the next 8 years!).

    Boeing and Airbus will talk about it but nothing will come of it.

  4. I am a 757 fan. But reading your post made me depressed as hell…

    Sadly we may see the end of one of the best looking aircraft ever built. I hope Delta keeps her flying for a long time.

  5. Or to discuss it another way, how many routes actually NEED a 757 capability, bet it the distance or the Pax amounts?

    Add to that, how many operators are flying 757s because they are paid for or they got cheap (read that as FedEx on picking up 757s being dropped by innumerable operators from whats been seen (i.e. they got no big chunk until recently form a single sources). They can pick up (or will and store) 757-200s till the cows come home for future (and then buy a 737NG or NEO if they have to in the future if the 757s go obsolete for express frieght and cargo.

    I would be surprised if there are 100 routes or operations that can’t work unless there is a 757 capability (that means no work around either) That is simply not enough in that segment to have a new model on so it will be a derivative or a 757 will solder on (assuming its profitable)

    The A320 and 737 have gotten longer range and more pax capability and that has taken the bottom 700+ 757s slots away permanently as even a new 757 hull would not compete with the latest generation of 737-320s (cost of a bigger airframe vs the smaller less costly and more optimizes for all but the longest routes or highest pax needs.

  6. The 757 has what others such as the larger 737’s and A321’s lack and that is being able to operate off short runways and yet offer adequate range. Also the capability to operate at high altitudes and being able to climb quickly is another plus and while the other narrow bodies seem to have taken over many 757 routes, their runway needs are very high and climb rates are painfully slow.
    I feel there still remains a market for the 757 type aircraft. Many of my trips over the Atlantic have been on 757’s as anything larger would have been a money loser, small thin markets will always exist.

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