A hot rod's final delivery

It's been an incredible week, the likes of which we haven't seen in a while. First Air Canada and then Air India announce they're selecting 787s and 777s to renew their fleets. Then you throw in the A380 first-flight hoopla, and needless to say, we've been a little busy around here.

But I don't want the week to go by without a few fond words about a great airplane. The very last 757 departed Boeing Field in Seattle on Wednesday. This final delivery almost got lost in all the other news going on.

Shanghai Airlines' 757 photo

Final delivery. Shanghai Airlines' 757 soars into the skies over Puget Sound.

We formally completed the 757 line back in October, but this week we actually delivered the last airplane to Shanghai Airlines, which had requested an April delivery. Their new 757-200 is the 1,050th and final 757 produced in Renton, WA. Can you believe that?

55 customers ordered 757s over the past 20 years or so. And about 1,030 of the 757s are still in service around the world today. Did you know that of the 35 commercial jetliners introduced since the 1950s, only seven models have ever sold more than 1,000 units? That's a real achievement. A tribute to the Boeing folks who made it happen.

As a "cub" economic analyst for Boeing, I did some airplane operating cost trade studies related to the 757 when we were first developing the airplane. I could see then that it was going to be in big demand by the airlines because of its efficient technology. Over the years I've been involved in many sales campaigns with some of our best customers with this fabulous product.

Probably the greatest memory is from the early 1990s when I was head of the 737/757 product marketing group. I had the amazing opportunity to fly on a 757 demonstration flight to Lhasa, Tibet. Now, this is one of the highest airports in the world, at 11,600 feet elevation. That's thin air up there, surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas.

 757 Lhasa, Tibet, 1991 photo

With yours truly on board, the 757 demonstrates a single-engine take off at the airport in Lhasa, Tibet in 1991.

But we successfully and safely demonstrated that this twin-engine airplane had enough power and performance to do a single-engine take off and turn back to the airport. Soon after that came the first regular twin-engine jet service to that region.

When we gave birth to the first 757 back in 1981, it set the standard for aviation technology and efficiency. Here's the interesting thing: that very first one didn't go to a customer. It's a Boeing-owned test airplane, still in use today.

I'm told that pilots like to call the 757-200 the "hot rod of the skies." Mainly because it's a very powerful airplane, and it almost literally jumps into the air. Considering that nearly all of the 757s we ever built are still flying, I think this hot rod will be soaring into the skies for a long, long time.


On another note related to events this week, you might want to take a moment to click over to BBC News for a really good, balanced mix of views on the A380 and its potential impact on travel. Interesting reading.