The Boeing 757 is an iconic plane in its own right, though not always as distinguishable to the untrained eye as a 747 or A380. It has been in production from 1981 to 2004, and in service since 1983. In fact, many airlines are holding onto their 757s tightly because of the versatility offered by this plane, in range, passenger capacity, and flight abilities.
While browsing Reddit’s /r/Aviation subreddit, I came across an article about Norwegian looking to Airbus to use the A321neo to take the place of their 757s. While Norwegian is a staunch Boeing supporter and purchasing their new 737-MAX, they recognize that the 737 simply does not have the range that the 757 does, even with the improvements provided by the MAX variants. The A321neo’s Long Range variant, however, does meet this need.
Benjamin from Business Insider goes on to explain that the issue is the size of the engines and the way the original 737 was designed. As I mentioned the other day, he A321neo-LR uses the CFM LEAP-1A engines, while the 737-MAX uses the CFM LEAP-1B engines:
An upgrade to a larger engine will likely involve a redesign of the 737’s landing gear. That’s because the 737 was designed in the 1960s to be powered by Pratt & Whitney’s JT8D engine with a much more compact fan diameter of 49 inches.
This means that whether it decides to modify the 737 or to build a new plane from scratch, it’ll be a move that will likely cost billions.
Also in the Business Insider article, there is a link to Patrick Smith’s Ask the Travel, where he discusses the shortcomings of the 737 from a pilot’s perspective. Most of what is discussed won’t directly affect a passenger, but one excerpt stands out:
Short runway? Stiff headwinds? Full payload? No problem. With 180 passengers on board, the plane can safely depart from a 6,000-foot runway, lifting off at a measly 135 knots (assuming flaps at 15 or 20), climb directly to 39,000 feet, and fly clear across the country. Nothing else can do that.
While the cramped cockpit of the 737 (versus A320, A321, or 757) isn’t something we won’t experience as passengers, one thing we can appreciate is versatility. The 757’s cabin is also roomier than the 737, as the 737 was initially designed as a regional jet.
Like I said, there are many airlines that are holding onto their 757s (Delta still has more than 150 in service) to be able to optimize the ratio of passengers to fuel-costs and maintenance. If the A321neo-LR can fill the void left by aging 757s, it would be a huge win for Airbus.