The Story Of The Boeing 767

Over 1,200 Boeing 767s have been produced since 1981. The twinjet has shown its versatility over the years, sliding between passenger, cargo, and military operations. While the plane is not as popular as it once was, its impact can’t be overstated.

United Airlines Boeing 767 in Flight
United Airlines was the first carrier to fly with the Boeing 767. Photo: Getty Images

The widebody age

Boeing pioneered widebody transport when the legendary 747 was introduced in 1970. However, the jumbo was too large for some. Even back then, airlines were conscious of being more economically efficient. Therefore, Boeing started working on another project. After mulling over a short-range Short Takeoff and Landing STOL (aircraft), the manufacturer concluded on what would become the 767. To support the move, Boeing’s Everett site was expanded.

Pan Am Boeing 747-100 being pushed-back by a tug at night
There was a new requirement following the arrival of the Boeing 747. Photo: Getty Images

The Boeing 767-200 kicked off the family’s flight action following its first takeoff on September 26th, 1981. MSN 22233 was commanded by Boeing pilots Tommy Edmonds, Lew Wallick, and John Brit. Notably, the 767-100 would not be an option as its proposed capacity was too close to that of the 757.

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Up in the skies

United Airlines was the launch customer of the type. It ordered 30 units in July 1978. The operator was soon joined by fellow legacy carriers, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, with orders later that year.

The first production to be delivered was MSN 21867. According to ch-aviation, this unit joined United as registration N606UA on August 19th, 1982. Overall, this plane conducted 76,915 flight hours until it left United in the middle of the 2000s.

United introduced the 767-200 on September 8th, 1982, during a flight from Chicago to Denver. This flight would kick off a trend that would see the plane become a favorite among major carriers worldwide.

American Airlines 767
Several iconic liveries have painted over the 767 over the decades since the plane’s launch. Photo: Getty Images.

Additional variants

The first extended-range model of the family entered service in 1984 when EL AL introduced the 767-200ER. With the extra fuel capacity, the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was increased to up to 395,000 lb (179,000 kg).

Two years later, the 767-300 entered service. Japan Airlines first placed an order in 1983, and its first aircraft were delivered before the end of 1986 for the carrier to become the first operator.

There was a 21.1-foot (6.43 m) fuselage extension with this model. Altogether, the length of the aircraft was 180.25 ft (54.9 m). This variant would also go through a range extension when American Airlines flew with the 767-300ER in 1988.

Boeing 767-300
There was a series of expansions with the 767. Photo: Getty Images

The right tools

Despite not being the first on the market, Boeing is proud of its initial widebody twinjet. Along with its high capacity, it was integral in opening doors for two-engined operations across the globe.

“The Boeing 767, built in Everett, Wash., alongside the 747, can carry from 200 to 300-plus passengers. The 767 is a wide-body, double-aisle jet, but, like the smaller standard-body 757, it was designed for fuel efficiency. Both planes have nearly identical digital cockpits, allowing crews to be easily qualified on both,” Boeing shares on its website.

“In 1985, as the pioneer for ETOPS (for “Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards”), the 767 was certified for extended flights that would make it the first commercial twin jet to fly regular routes across the Atlantic. The 767-200 was first ordered in 1978, and the last was delivered in 1994. Its extended-range model, the 767-200ER, entered service in 1984. The 767-300 was first ordered in 1986 and was followed by its extended-range model, first delivered in 1988.”

TUI 767
Over the years, the Boeing 767 has been powered by General Electric CF6, Rolls-Royce RB211, Pratt & Whitney JT9D turbofans, and PW4000 engines. Photo: Getty Images

Transitioning with the industry

Overhauls in the passenger realm would remain largely quiet until the dawn of the new millennium. In the summer of 2000. Continental Airlines received the first 767-400ER aircraft. This aircraft could seat 131 passengers in economy, 70 in economy plus, and 39 in business. This jet also came with an MTOW of 204,120 kg (450,008 lb). Notably, Continental merged with United in 2010, allowing for the Chicago-based carrier that introduced the first variant to operate the final passenger edition.

Philip Condit Boeing CEO and Chairman at Airshow
Former Boeing CEO Philip Condit in front of the 767-400 at the 2004 Farnborough Air Festival. Photo: Getty Images

The deployment of the 767 had been declining steadily before the pandemic. Round-trip seat bookings on US-operated units have been decreasing yearly since 2013. Moreover, the global health crisis caused a rapid drop in utilization of the type. Airlines are even retiring the aircraft in the new climate.

Overall, Boeing and its customers are opting to concentrate on more modern jets when it comes to passenger operations. Thus, the Boeing 787 and 777X will be the prime focus this decade in the widebody field.

Delta Air Lines, Italy, Quarantine Free
The aircraft is still well spotted at airports, with majors carriers such as Delta still flying the type. Photo: Getty Images

Nonetheless, the 767 has adapted to the changing conditions, working well in industries such as cargo. The 767-300F entered service with UPS Airlines back in 1995. This model has a high-capacity cargo setup on both the main deck and lower hold. Additionally, the plane can transport 59 tons (53 tonnes) of cargo across the continents.

Boeing | 767-300F | DHL Air | G-DHLE
The 767 is still going strong with shipping operations. Photo: Getty Images

Continuing to evolve, Boeing delivered the first 767-300BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) to All Nippon Airways (ANA) in the summer of 2008. This is a customized passenger-to-freighter aircraft. The plane received a main deck cargo door along with a fortified main deck floor, and extra safety and freight monitoring appliances.

The 767 also delivers well when it comes to military duties. Even now, 56 of the 95 unfilled orders are for the 767-2C tankers. Meanwhile, the rest of the orders are for freighters.

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Coming to the end of its career

Regardless, despite finding a lease of life in other fields, the Boeing 767 is finding it hard to keep up in the commercial realm, especially since production of passenger units has ended. Nonetheless, the plane helped Boeing and its customers through crucial moments in aviation history and will leave a legacy that won’t be forgotten.

What are your thoughts about the journey of the Boeing 767? Which variant has been your favorite over the years? Let us know what you think of the aircraft and its operations in the comment section.