On February 19, 1982, the first Boeing 757 manufactured took off from Renton airport to begin its certification testing phase. It had Rolls-Royce RB211 engines installed, on the test flight, one of the engines indicated low oil pressure and shut down, the crew were able to start it up again in flight and they continued without major incident on their maiden flight.
The origin of this last new narrow cabin model developed by Boeing, occurred in the second half of the ’70s. Boeing had terminated production of the 707, recouped the huge investment from developing the 747, and the Everett plant was on the right track and the 727-200 was selling like hot cakes.
It was time to think about the development of new models and several customers said that they were interested in a plane larger than the 727-200, for about 180 passengers in two classes that would somehow fill the gap of the 707, but with much lower costs. . A 727-300 was thought of but the lengthening of the fuselage could lead to tail-strike problems, in addition to other structural and wing capacity problems. And to reduce costs it was better with new technology engines such as those offered by Rolls-Royce (RB211) and Pratt & Whitney (PW2000).
So a new project called the 7N7 was presented to the airlines that used the same Boeing narrow-cabin fuselage cell, elongated to accommodate the proposed passengers; New technology engines that required only 2 and not 3 as in the 727, so instead of in the rear, they were put in the wings and also saved the more expensive “T” tail of the 727. And the cockpit also featured the latest technologies such as color displays instead of traditional mechanical instruments, new avionics and was for just two pilots.
At that time, there was also pressure from McDonnell Douglas, which also offered the airlines a new 180-passenger “medium-wide” aircraft with 2 aisles and 2-2-2 configuration, which received interest from some airlines including Delta and British Airways, but ultimately Mr. McDonnell did not give the green light to the project so all potential customers left for Boeing development.
At the same time, a new wide-body idea was developed, although smaller than the 747, also for 180 passengers with 2 aisles, which was called 7X7. Interestingly, both proposals were liked by Boeing customers for different missions, so Boeing decided to go ahead with both proposals.
Eastern Airlines and British Airways were the first to sign for the new narrow-body aircraft with which Boeing made the official launch and it was designated as 757-200 (there was a short-body proposal called 757-100 for 150 passengers, which did not wake up no interest). The new aircraft offered 20% more capacity than the 727-200 but its costs were reduced 30% due to lower engine consumption, better aerodynamics and a lighter fuselage.
Both Eastern and British opted for Rolls-Royce engines that initially delivered 37,400 pounds of thrust, while Delta was the launch customer for the 38,200-pound PW2000s, with an order for 60 aircraft.
The first prototype, as discussed earlier, left the Renton factory on January 13, 1982 with Rolls-Royce engines, and made its maiden flight on February 19. The test program lasted 7 months and 5 aircraft were involved for all kinds of tests. By then 136 firm orders more options had already been achieved.
In the end, the production version resulted in a saving of 1.6 tonnes in weight and a 3% better fuel consumption than expected, so its range was increased by 370 km. The FAA certified the aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines on December 21, 1982, and the first delivery for Eastern was made on December 22. The first aircraft with PW2000 engines went off the line approximately a year later and the first delivery was made to Delta on November 5, 1984.
In total, 1,050 aircraft of all variants were produced, the last being a 757-200 for Shanghai Airlines that left the Renton factory on October 28, 2004, although it was delivered to the airline until November 2005.