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https://boeing.mediaroom.com/2005-04-28-Boeing-Closes-Chapter-in-Aviation-History-with-Final-757-Delivery

Boeing in late 2003 decided to end 757 production because the increased capabilities of the newest 737s and the potential of the all-new Boeing 787 fulfill the 757 market's needs.

But instead a gap was created in their lineup as this graphics from 2014 shows quite well:

enter image description here

So how did the expectations not pan out? Were they wrong in the first place and have there been significant changes to the 787 before it entered service?

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    $\begingroup$ That chart is missing the 737MAX-10 at 230 seats, which perfectly fills that gap. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 12, 2022 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ The earliest studies for the MAX-10 were in 2016. That's some 13 years after the decision to stop the 757. $\endgroup$
    – chx
    Jun 12, 2022 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, why does the chart list the 747-8 for future Boeing aircraft. Those have already been phased out and the last 747-8Fs are being produced as we speak. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2022 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ This chart is from 2014. I mentioned that in the question and it's in the footer of the chart too. The 747-8 "died" in 2017 or so. $\endgroup$
    – chx
    Jun 12, 2022 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any sources of the 757 replacement plans before 2011 when the 787 finally entered into service? $\endgroup$
    – chx
    Jun 13, 2022 at 9:15

2 Answers 2

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The gap happened because the 737MAX wasn’t part of the original plan.

The 767 and 757 shared a type rating and a lot of common parts, and orders had dried up for both, so they didn’t have much choice about ending production. The 737 was getting pretty old too. However, the replacement of the 747 with the 777 was going well, so why not keep going and replace everything?

Boeing’s replacement for the 767 was the 787, which was received very well despite being a radical change. Not only did it quickly kill off demand for the 767, it also started replacing 747s and (oops) 777s.

The next step was to downsize the 787 to make the New Midsize Aircraft (NMA), which would replace the 757 and 737NG.

However, Southwest Airlines(SWA) pushed back hard on having a second type in their fleet (they fly all 737s). If Boeing forced them to do that, they would switch to Airbus. Boeing had to re-engine the 737 or lose their most loyal customer.

So, the folks that were supposed to develop the NMA were shifted to what became the 737MAX. The MAX9 wasn’t large enough to replace the 757, but that was okay because they were still assuming the NMA would eventually get built, so the gap it left in their lineup (as seen in your chart) was only temporary.

However, the MAX took a lot longer to launch than expected and then the MCAS fiasco cost them a ton of money and goodwill in the market, so rather than lose a decade launching the NMA into that gap, they did another cheap hack to the 737 (since that went so well the last time) to produce the MAX10.

Now that the hole in the product line is closed, there’s no longer a clear market segment for the NMA, so it was canceled for good.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting. SWA became the launch customer of the 737 MAX in 2011 Dec and it's hard to find information on what went on before. Do you have a source for SWA pushing Boeing away from downsizing the 787? I found some references to a 787-3 simpleflying.com/boeing-787-3-nma which apparently had some orders from Japanese airlines but this article claims it got mothballed because the first Dreamliners were late and doesn't mention any SWA resistance. $\endgroup$
    – chx
    Jun 13, 2022 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/… this article certainly seems to indicate SWA had a huge influence on the 737 MAX. $\endgroup$
    – chx
    Jun 13, 2022 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ @chx NMA wasn’t just a short 787; it would use the same tech but with a smaller elliptical fuselage, shorter wings and smaller engines. And yes, SWA absolutely is the reason MAX happened. That is well documented. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 13, 2022 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ I can see that but I can't find them pushing back on the 787, that'd be very interesting to read about. $\endgroup$
    – chx
    Jun 13, 2022 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @chx They pushed back on the NMA, not the 787. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jun 13, 2022 at 16:47
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The 737 MAX 10 is the replacement, for now. It almost matches the 757-200 on capacity (230 vs 240) and the 757-300 on range (3300 vs 3400 nmi), while staying considerably lighter and cheaper, due to being based on a scaled-up regional design.

Boeing had plans for a New Midsize Airplane, but these got delayed and possibly canned when the pandemic started.

A lot of awesome things were expected from the NMA, like a true light two-aisle design (2-3-2), with the comforts of a widebody, but not fitting the cramped 3-3-3 787 configuration. With cheap oil and many passengers willing to pay for comfort, its future was looking bright. Its main sacrifice vs the 767 would've been the ability to transport freight. Note that this was speculation, not confirmed specs.

Now, with air travel reduced by the pandemic, then suppressed again, and oil to stay at a new high for a long time, building a new airliner, especially one that doesn't prioritize seat-mile cost as much as possible, looks like a losing proposition economically.

The A320neo largely fills the former 757 role, and competing with it across all segments would take a new design with all associated costs.

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    $\begingroup$ The Max 10? It’s a crappy replacement but, yeah, fits all the criteria for that market niche. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2022 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ @CarloFelicione Deliberately crappy, I'd say. But in a Walmart kind of philosophy, it's the cheapest thing that only-just-fits the reqs... $\endgroup$
    – Therac
    Jun 12, 2022 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Boeing is the Walmart of aviation. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Jun 12, 2022 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 Sadly the company sold itself out to those instincts and is rapidly being eclipsed by Airbus. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2022 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @chx one of the difficulties in aviation is that trends are sometimes difficult to anticipate, and development of airliners takes a long time. Not to shame Boeing only, Airbus has had its woes too: they had to redesign what became the A350, as their original concept was rejected by carriers. And the A380 was, if not a disaster, not an exact success story. The market for superjumbos melted from under it. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Jun 13, 2022 at 6:14

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