During the 1970s Boeing derived several proposals for a successor to the three-engined Boeing 727 aircraft, which typically seated between 94 and 189 passengers and was a very successful aircraft, particularly in US domestic markets.
The final design of the 757 was decided upon in the late 1970s, utilising the same cabin cross-section as the 727/737 but with a considerably longer fuselage, a redesigned wing and modern high-bypass fuel efficient turbofan engines. Boeing also designed a state-of-the-art advanced two-crew flightdeck with Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS). This incorporated six cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays housing primary attitude data, navigation display and engine parameters including an automated crew alerting system (a system of messages and aural warnings which presents the crew with information on the extent or significance of non-normal situations).
Another feature of the aircraft design was commonality with the Boeing 767 (see private jet charter), which was developed alongside the 757. The two aircraft types share a number of systems, and the flightdeck is almost identical allowing a common pilot type-rating between the two aircraft.
Until the late 1990s only one version of the 757 was available, the 757-200 (the -100 version having been on the drawing board but never produced). The -200 aircraft was available in full passenger (-200), full package freighter (-200PF) or combi (-200M) versions.
During the mid 1990s Boeing began to study the possibility of a stretched development of the 757 aircraft. The result was the development of the Boeing 757-300, only available in full passenger layout, which is 23ft longer than the 757-200 and can accommodate an extra 40 passengers in all-economy configuration. The aircraft was aimed at the European leisure markets, and today provides low seat-mile costs for airlines like Condor, JMC Airlines (both of whom are now part of Thomas Cook Airlines) and Arkia. Scheduled operators Icelandair, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines have also recently introduced the new variant.
As the graph above illustrates, orders for the Boeing 757 peaked in the late 1980s, while deliveries peaked in 1992 with a new aircraft being rolled out on average every 4 days during that year alone. However in 2003, with both the -200 and -300 series selling in only small numbers, Boeing announced the discontinuation of the 757 programme, more than 20 years after the first flight.
The 757 programme was announced in early 1978, with orders received from launch carriers Eastern Airlines and British Airways later that year. On 19th February 1982 aircraft N757A with Rolls Royce RB211-535C engines took off marking the first flight of the aircraft and also making the 757 the first aircraft launched by Boeing with foreign engines.
In readiness for service entry the US FAA certified the aircraft on 21st December 1982, with the British CAA following suit some three weeks later. Revenue services commenced on 1st January 1983 with Eastern Airways and on the other side of the Atlantic on 9th February 1983 with British Airways.
On 14th March 1984 the first Boeing 757 with Pratt & Whitney engines began flight testing, and following certification the model was delivered for service with Delta on 5th November 1984.
Although not a true "Extended Range" version of the aircraft, the 757-200(ER) first flew on 8th April 1986 and was delivered to Royal Brunei on 6th May 1986. The ER aircraft is certified to a higher gross takeoff weight, but does not feature additional fuel tank capacity (which is strictly speaking normally a feature of an ER variant).
In September 1987 the first Boeing 757-200PF (Package Freighter) was delivered to UPS, and the carrier remains a strong 757 customer operating over 70 of these aircraft today.
On 15th July 1988 the 757-200M (Combi) first took to the air, later delivered to Royal Nepal Airlines on 15th September 1988. The aircraft, pictured here, remains the only 757-200M ever produced, and can be adapted to carry a mixture of passengers and cargo simultaneously.
The Boeing 757-300 was the latest version of the 757 family produced, first flying on 3rd August 1998 and delivered to launch customer Condor (now one of the Thomas Cook Airlines) on 10th March 1999. Little over 50 of this later variant were sold before Boeing sadly announced the discontinuation of the Boeing 757 series, more than 20 years after the first flight.
The following table shows the first airline to put each of the Boeing 757 variants into commercial service.
Aircraft Variant First Commercial Operator
Boeing 757-200 Eastern Airlines
Boeing 757-200ER Royal Brunei
Boeing 757-200PF United Parcel Service
Boeing 757-200M Royal Nepal Airlines
Boeing 757-300 Condor