@Delta’s Narrow Wide-Body, the Domestic 767-300

Ship 1402 from SAN to ATL

Recently I had the opportunity to fly on what I like to refer to (affectionately, of course) as a narrow wide-body. Delta has a handful of Boeing 767-300 (not ER or LR, mind you) that have their first class in a 2x2x2 configuration. These seats are standard recline only, not angled or lie-flat as other 767s you might encounter, so don’t get too excited when you see what you’ll be flying!

If you get there early enough, you can see the walk-about

As it is a 767, it is configured with two aisles going down the length of the plane, so it is by definition a wide-body. The “narrow” part comes down to the seats in first class. Let’s look at a few different planes, shall we? Pay attention to the seat width and pitch between first class in all of them.

We’ll start with a few smaller planes… the CRJ-900, ERJ-175, and MD-88.

CRJ-900: 19.6” width, 37” pitch
ERJ-175: 20” width, 37” pitch
MD-88: 19.6” width, 37” pitch

As you can see, all three feature a 37 inch pitch (how far you can recline), with nearly 20 inch wide seats in first class.

Next, we’ll look at a couple of larger planes: B737-900ER and the B757-300. Both of these can be used for transcontinental routes, so it isn’t any surprise that they have wider seats.

B737-900ER: 21” width, 37” pitch
B757-300: 21” width, 37-38” pitch

Finally, we come to the 767-300 that Delta uses for domestic non-DeltaOne routes.

B767-300: 18.5” width, 37-38” pitch

That’s right – it has narrower seats than the CRJ-900. The pitch is certainly appreciated, but don’t expect as roomy of a seat as any of the planes mentioned above.

The Cabin

First class in a 2x2x2 configuration

When you step onto the plane, your first thought might be “is this from the 80s?” And personally, I don’t think you’d be far off. From the seats…


To the in-flight entertainment…

At least it tilts?

To the over-head controls…

To the storage bins.

Don’t expect to fit larger bags up here.

The storage bins on the outsides of the aisles could only fit a standard roll-aboard bag rotated length-wise. Travel light if you find yourself on one of these birds!

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy myself on this flight, because in all honesty I did. That is a testament to the attitude and attentiveness of the Delta flight crew, no two ways about it. The crew is 80% of why I fly Delta, and this flight was no exception in that regard.

We were greeted with smiles and the crew made sure everyone was able to get settled in with minimal issues. Once in the air, the captain let us know that thanks to a nice tailwind, we would be arriving early (the other part of why I love flying Delta – I’m always at least on time, and often early) in Atlanta.


We were given options between a salmon salad and mushroom lasagna for our lunches, and I opted for the salmon salad.

The entrée

The salmon was served on a bed of baby spinach and accompanied by purple potatoes (which happen to be my favorite) and cabbage “pasta” with small peppers. The balance between acidity and spice was perfect for eating in a pressurized cabin in the sky, and it would have gone perfectly with a nice Chardonnay.


Dessert was a delicious fruit/cheese medley. I opted not for the sweeter dessert that was offered, though, so I can’t comment on that.

The remainder of the flight proved to be uneventful. There was a little turbulence through the northern part of Texas, but we landed early as promised by the pilot! Overall, it was quite an enjoyable trip.


@Delta to Upgrade RDU-CDG Flight

Google Now just informed me that there has been talk of Delta replacing the 757 that is currently being used to connect Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) with a 767. This would be a pretty big improvement in the quality of flight for passengers. Delta’s Pink Force One is an example of a 767, though it is a -400, not a -300 as I would expect to bridge RDU and CDG.

Pink Force One: N845MH / DAL86
Pink Force One: N845MH / DAL86

While the Delta One seats in the 757 are lie-flat, they lack the lumbar massage option that the 767 and Airbus 330 offer. After being in a seat for a prolonged period of time, I can vouch for how helpful these can be! This also means more Delta One seats, and hopefully better uses for Global Upgrade Certificates. The 767, being a wide-body aircraft, allows for aisle access from all Delta One seats, so you don’t have to worry about stepping over anyone if you need to get up and stretch. Again – an improvement from the 757 currently serving this route.

Courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper
Courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper

Right now Delta is only planning on this being a seasonal upgrade, but I hope it sticks around. RDU flyers can expect to see this change in the Spring of 2017, slated to start on May 25th.

Seat Maps

You can see seatmaps for these planes on SeatGuru. Though it isn’t clear which variant of the 767-300/-400 will be used, there isn’t too much change in what you can expect as a flyer.

Boeing 767-300

Boeing 767-400

Boeing 757 Lie-Flat

@Boeing 757 vs. 737 from a Pilot’s Perspective

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.

From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com
From Boeing.com

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.

Shot by Ken Iwelumo via Wikipedia
Shot by Ken Iwelumo via Wikipedia

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.

737-MAX and A32x-neo

No, I don’t mean the Messianic figure from the Matrix movies, I am referring to Airbus’s denotation of improved engine performance and mileage: “New Engine Option”. These two narrow-body planes are reported to have an improved fuel efficiency estimated at 15% over their traditional counterparts, which will allow them to fly from the East Coast to Western Europe. This efficiency is due to a combination of new manufacturing technologies (and materials) leading to lighter planes , more efficient engines, and wingtip devices to help reduce drag.

Until now, we were limited to 757 variants when it came to narrow-body options to cross the Atlantic. While the 757 does offer lie-flat seats in certain configurations – Raleigh to Paris on Delta, for example, it is definitely aging and it shows. More fuel efficient options should translate to cheaper tickets for the passengers, and more options as well.


From Flickr via Wikipedia

The 737-MAX family will use the CFM LEAP-1B engine, which is larger and more efficient than the older CFM56 engines found on the bulk of the 737 fleet. The estimated range is between 4,000 and 4,400 nautical miles for all but the ‘MAX 200’ variant, which is unique to RyanAir as a variant of the 737-8.

From Wikimedia via Wikipedia

Additionally, it will have new wingtip devices which further boost its fuel efficiency. This combination of wingtip technologies is referred to as a “split scimitar winglet” by Boeing.

From Wikimedia via Wikipedia
From Wikimedia via Wikipedia

Though Southwest will be the launch customer of the MAX 7 and MAX 8 variants (Lion Air will be the launch customer of the MAX 9 and RyanAir of the MAX 200), I fully expect other airlines to replace their aging 737 population with these, especially when it comes to profit margins and fuel costs.

A320neo & A321neo

From Flickr via Wikipedia
A321neo test-bed on a low gears-up departure from Toulouse.
From Flickr via Wikipedia

Both the A320 and A321 narrow-body aircraft from Airbus offer ‘neo’ options, and both are driven by CFM LEAP engines, though -1A.  As with the 737-MAX, these planes also have redesigned wingtip devices (referred to as ‘sharklets’ by Airbus).

By Julian Herzog via Wikipedia
By Julian Herzog via Wikipedia

Sacramento Flight and LAX Plane Spotting

To maintain my status with Delta, I like to plan creative routes when traveling. For my trip to Sacramento this week, I opted to fly from Raleigh to Atlanta, Atlanta to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Sacramento (instead of to Salt Lake, and from there directly, for example… or directly from Atlanta… or many other options).

737-900 First Class

My first flight of the day was on one of Delta’s 737-900s. Though the seats are quite comfortable, and the in-flight entertainment console is crisp, the air-flow in the cabin is horrendous. Older 757s and even 717s have much more directed air pressure, allowing you to remain cooler. Extremely important when you’re in the South!

First Class on a 737-900
First Class on a 737-900
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Outlets, outlets everywhere!
Outlets, outlets everywhere!

757-200 Thrust Reversal

My second flight, the longest leg, was on a 757-200. Unfortunately I didn’t get upgraded on this leg (I didn’t really expect to, since I was flying out of Atlanta). The nice thing about this was my seat was immediately in front of the engine. This allowed me to capture the thrust-reversal upon landing in LAX!

All 757-200s use one of two engines (one of which has two variants):

According to the Delta Museum, and using FlightRadar24 to cross-check the tail-number based on flight number, I confirmed that my 757-200 was using the PW2037.

Now for some background on thrust reversal! The purpose of thrust reversal is to take some of the engine’s thrust and direct it forward instead of backwards. This allows for shorter landing distances, less wear on brakes, and make for an all around safer flying experience. If you listen after landing, you will hear a loud woosh – that is the thrust reversal process. The Wikipedia article above identifies three types of thrust reversal mechanisms available for jet engines:

  • Target
  • Clam-shell
  • Cold Stream

Purdue released a very helpful visual guide to differentiate between the three, as well as an explanation of where the thrust actually goes! Since the PW2000 series is a high by-pass engine, the cold stream type is what we would expect, and as you can see it is indeed what is happening:

At the gate in ATL
Thrust Reversal!

Arizona Meteor Crater

And now, a brief reprieve from AvGeekery. 😉 Very brief.

En route to Los Angeles, we crossed just south of the Barringer Crater! You can see it up and to the left of the engine intake, below.

Barringer Meteor Crater
Barringer Meteor Crater

Plane Spotting!

Upon Arrival at LAX, I made my way to the SkyClub in the middle of Terminal 5. From one of the seats along the window, I was able to see planes arrive and depart. Given LAX’s traffic, I got to see quite a few wide-bodies, as well as one of Alaska’s 737-900ERs! Lucky, on his blog “One Mile at a Time”, has a very nice guide on differentiating between different variants of wide-body aircraft. Simply put, it largely comes down to the number of wheels, engines, or doors they have. 😉

I tried to find the right version of their seat map on SeatGuru, and have provided links to those, as well. If you find something amiss, please let me know!

Boeing 737-900ER
Airbus A340-300
Boeing 777-200ER
Boeing 777-300ER
Boeing 777-200LR
Airbus A380

After an hour and a half, because the inbound flight was a little late in arriving, I was on my way to Sacramento. It’s not a true visit to LAX without catching a glimpse of the Theme Building!

LAX Theme Building