Boeing 767-200ER – breaking the mould

Boeing always was a company that led the way when it came to innovation. Their Model 247 of the 1930s and the 707 jetliner of the 1960s broke technological new ground and the company have never been scared of going out on a limb.

However, in the late 1970s, Boeing sought to introduce their entry into a new class of airliner; an aircraft with two of the new generation advanced turbofans, a wide-bodied fuselage seating around 350 passengers, and Transcontinental (therefore, Transatlantic) range. Initially schemed as the ‘7X7’, the aircraft was designed from the start with a supercritical wing, which give it a reduction in drag, and therefore the increased range that was required. Boeing also took a huge gamble in that they developed the wide-bodied 767 along with its narrow-bodied cousin, the 757. There was commonality of engine types, two-place ‘glass’ cockpit (one of the first) and handling characteristics. This allowed another first, the ability to ‘cross-qualify’ crews (with some extra training), which gave an airline the ability to buy BOTH new Boeing types, to suit their route structure, and have the same crews qualified on both types.

The 767-100 was not offered to airlines, the first 767-200 being the first production version. The first aircraft made its maiden flight in September, 1981. This was just in time for the airliner to appear at Farnborough International Air Show in 1982 (in the colours of Delta Airlines). The first order, for 30 aircraft, had been already placed by United Airlines, who were quickly followed by Delta and American. Customers could order the 767 with General Electric CF-6, Pratt & Whitney JT9D or Rolls-Royce RB211 turbofans.

The big breakthrough came when the type was granted permission to use the 767 on what was known as EROPS – extended range operations – which allowed twin-engine aircraft to fly a route where their nearest diversion was 60 minutes away, in event of one of the engines having to be shut down. This was due to the increased reliability of the new generation of turbofans, and meant that the North Atlantic could now be flown by twin-engine aircraft, with fare-carrying passengers, under FAA rules. By the mid 1990s, this meant that the 767 (in its various models) was the most used airliner crossing the Atlantic. The twin-aisle, ‘two-three-two’ seating was popular with passengers, too. However, it was locked in a sales battle with its European rival the Airbus A300/310 family, and improvements had to come.

The 767-200ER (for Extended Range) gave an increase in gross weight, more fuel, and a range out to 6,385 nautical miles. The very first customer for this variant was Ethiopian Airlines in December, 1982; I was fortunate enough to fly an Ethiopian -200ER from Heathrow to Addis Ababa, via Frankfurt and Rome, which involved flying down the valley of the Nile at dawn!

Let’s examine the life history of just ONE Boeing 767-200ER. Ordered by the British inclusive tour operator Britannia Airways in 1988, Boeing 767-204ER (construction number 24013/201), weighed just over 159 metric tonnes, and was powered by 2 x GE CF6-80A2 engines, and was registered G-BNYS on the British Register when delivered in March, 1988. It was to stay with this British airline for no less than 13 years, and covered an immense mileage, mostly to European destinations such as Faro, Portugal, Athens, Greece, and Tel Aviv, Israel. At one time it carried the slogan ‘Keep Duty Free’ (seen at Geneva), when British airlines were in dispute with the British Government over duty-free sales.

On disposal, it was bought by Air Atlanta Europe, and leased out to a whole raft of smaller airlines. It operated in ‘Aeromar’ titles, serving the Dominican Republic from JFK, for example. Lignes Aériennes Congolaises, used it to link the Congo with European destinations such as Brussels – which has historic links with that African nation. However, another British airline, XL (a low-cost scheduled and charter carrier) made heavy use of -YS to heavily travelled destinations such as Tenerife and Faro.

Finally, after an overhaul and new paint, the aircraft was acquired by Air Seychelles, as S7-EXL. This is the colourful scheme in which you can see it, in the above photograph. It had not long prior to this made its last flight, from Birmingham (UK) to Cotswold Airport, Kemble in January, 2009, when it had been handed over to Air Salvage International for the process known as ‘parting out’. This includes the recovery of all components which can be overhauled and resold to other operators; the residual ‘carcass’ – usually fuselage and wings – is broken up and sold for scrap. This happened to -YS by the end of the summer. The business – although sad to see – is highly profitable.

The 767 was a massively successful type. Used by over 70 airlines, no less than 1,045 examples of the wide-bodied jet were delivered. It remains to be seen if its ‘replacement’, the 787 ‘Dreamliner’ – which represents another radical technological leap by Boeing – can emulate this fine record.

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