The Boeing 767-100 – The Plane That Never Was

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The development of the Boeing 767 was originally envisioned to offer three main variants. These were the 767-200, which went on to be the launch version, the 767LR version, which would have 200 seats and three engines and a shortened version, the 767-100. Ultimately only one of these three versions was produced.

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Why didn’t Boeing ever build a 767-100? Photo: Getty Images

Boeing took forward the idea for the long-range version of the 767, but it never ended up being a trijet. Instead, it went for two large engines and eventually renamed the design the 777. For the 767-100, the jet was never offered for sale.

So what happened to the 767-100, and why wasn’t its development taken forward?

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What would the 767-100 have been like?

The 767 was Boeing’s first twin engined widebody aircraft. It set the bar for the future of widebody planes, being the first to achieve extended ETOPS for transoceanic missions. While the initial 767-200 was configured with 210 seats, a shrunken version, the -100, would have seated around 20 less.

With only 190 passengers on board, we can assume the aircraft would have had a slightly longer range than the -200. The standard -200 flew up to 3,900 nmi, so it’s likely the 767 would have perhaps achieved just over 4,000 nmi in a non-LR version.

It was these characteristics that eventually sealed the fate of the 767-100.

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The 767-100 had inbuilt flaws that meant it was never brought to market. Photo: Boeing

Why wasn’t it built?

There were a few key problems with the proposed 767-100. For a start, while Boeing was busy developing the 767-200, it was also building the single-aisle 757. With a seating capacity of 200 in two classes, and a range of just under 4,000 nmi, the two models were considered to be too close in specifications to each other. This would have risked them cannibalizing each other’s sales, so Boeing decided to shelve the project.

In general, Boeing’s -100 series aircraft that were built never sold very well. The 707-100, for example, was known to be something of a gas guzzler, never selling as many as its bigger 707-300 brother. The 737-100 was largely unpopular, selling only 30 models compared to more than 1,000 of the larger 737-200. Even the 747-100, although it sold more than 200 models, was considered underpowered and had regular engine problems.

The 767-200 set the bar for the future of widebodies. Photo: Getty Images

This problem with the smallest models of aircraft has continued today, and is particularly notable with a couple of Airbus models. The A330-800, although not yet delivered to airlines, has clocked up only 14 orders, compared to more than 300 firm for the -900 version. A similar trend is seen with the 787-8, which has accrued roughly half the orders of the larger 787-9.

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The problem with smaller variants is that they are, economically, not significantly cheaper to operate than larger planes. The savings on flying a route with an A330-800 are minimal compared to operating the A330-900, and the extra 30 fare-paying passengers will soon eliminate that saving. As such, the small variants, while perfectly suited to unusual and specific missions, are never going to be as attractive to purchase for run-of-the-mill routes as their larger siblings.

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None of the shrunk versions of planes sell as well as their larger siblings. Photo: Getty Images

While the main reason Boeing never built the 767-100 came down to its similarities to the 757, it was likely a good decision at the time, as the -100 probably wouldn’t have sold all that well. However, with the world now crying out for a stubby, twin-aisle, long-range aircraft (a.k.a. the Boeing NMA), perhaps its time for the planemaker to revisit these ideas.

What are your thoughts on the 767-100; should it have been built? Let us know in the comments.

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