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British Airways and the Boeing 767-300

Some aircraft, even today, tend to receive a fair bit of publicity, particularly when it comes to air transport. One obvious example is that of the Airbus A380 ‘Super-Jumbo’, primarily due to its double-deck passenger cabin, not to mention the perception of its overall size. Despite the appearance however, the giant airliner’s length and wingspan is in fact, only marginally bigger than that of the Boeing 747. Boeing’s aircraft, the original ‘Jumbo Jet’ and dubbed ‘The Queen of the Skies’ by many, first appeared in 1969 so it did take a very long time for a successor type to arrive with the A380 in 2008.

What the 747 did however, was usher in the era of ‘wide-body’ flying, airliners that had two aisles in the cabin instead of the one more familiar to passengers at the time. The first of the first-generation wide-body types, the 747 was quickly followed by the Lockheed L1011 TriStar and Douglas DC10. Not far behind them was the first of the European Airbus consortium’s airliners, the A300.

As a wide-bodied airliner, the Airbus aircraft was aimed straight at the high-capacity short to medium range market, in which most of the world’s airlines had a significant interest, including British Airways (BA). Formed only in 1974, BA needed bigger aircraft on some shorter routes and went for the TriStar, which had been ordered originally by one of the two airlines that formed BA, British European Airways (BEA), the other of course being BOAC.

Fast forward to the end of the 1980s and BA had re-invented itself under the leadership of Sir John King and Colin Marshall to become ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’, and to replace the short haul version of the TriStar, the airline ordered the Boeing 767-300. Boeing had always made much of their willingness to tailor aircraft to the needs of its customer airlines and had redeveloped most of the aircraft they built, including the 767, almost from the day they announced them. In tandem with the narrow-bodied 757 (intended to replace the earlier 727, which had the same fuselage cross-section), Boeing announced a wide-body aircraft, the 767. Both aircraft shared numerous systems and components and enabled pilots to have a common type rating, meaning they could fly either without the need for time-consuming (and expensive) re-training.

British Airways were one of two launch customers for the 757 (the other was US carrier Eastern) and the arrival of the aircraft in January 1983 was met by some fanfare and publicity so it was no real surprise that the UK airline eventually ordered the 767 to go along with it, the first going into service in February 1990, seven years after the 757.

Unlike the 757 however, the 767 quietly entered service on the London Heathrow to Paris service, at the time the world’s busiest passenger route (as well as the world’s oldest) so the wide-body 767 was usefully employed on what was a short sector. Part of BA’s reasoning for choosing the 767 was that already-mentioned commonality with the 757, including the Rolls-Royce engines used on both aircraft (also found on many of BA’s 747s) and again like its cousin, the 767 was to prove itself a versatile and flexible airliner, staying in service with BA for the next 28 years. BA’s 767s were Extended Range (ER) variants, despite their use on shorter flights to places like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Athens, Barcelona, Madrid and Amsterdam, among others, and could be seen flying to destinations further afield, including Entebbe, Calgary, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, Larnaca, and Moscow.

Since the first 767 went into service, the aircraft has flown over 425,000 commercial flights, with Frankfurt being the destination where enthusiasts could spot the 767 most often; nearly 15,000 flights to and from the German airport were operated by BA with the type.

Time however moves inexorably on and after nearly three decades of just getting on with the job with no fuss or fanfare, the Boeing 767-300’s time with British Airways came to an end on November 26, the last flight using the aircraft departing London Heathrow on a service to Larnaca in Cyprus. BA’s final 767 commercial flight used the aircraft carrying the registration G-BZHA, which celebrated its twentieth birthday in 2018 - it first flew in May 1998 and has flown an estimated 23 million miles. It has visited Larnaca 900 times in its life, but its most frequented route is to Athens, where it’s completed 1,275 return trips and overall, the aircraft has carried around 4 million customers across nearly 23,000 flights.

British Airways Director of Flight Operations, Captain Al Bridger, said: “The 767 has been a brilliant part of our fleet, flying some of our most popular routes and giving customers what was an industry-leading service in its time. It’s fitting that as the final 767 leaves the fleet, we take our 30th delivery of another industry-leading aircraft, the 787, which offers customers an exceptional experience in the skies.”

With the exception of a Boeing 777 used on a daily service to Madrid, all of BA’s European services are now operated using Airbus A319, A320 and A321 aircraft, with New Engine Option (NEO) types replacing the earlier versions and the A330 also on order.

Like the 747 and 757, the Boeing 767 is slowly being retired by airlines that previously operated large numbers of the aircraft but post-BA, there are still a few to be seen around Europe:

  • Star Europe (Cargo)

  • UPS (Cargo)

  • Air Astana

  • TUI Airways (UK, Belgium, Nordic & Netherlands)

  • United Airlines (Especially New York/Newark-Europe routes)

  • Delta Airlines (Especially from New York JFK)

  • American Airlines (Until 2021)

  • Titan Airways (on lease to other airlines)

  • Private Air (on lease to other airlines)

  • DHL UK (Cargo)

  • FedEX (Cargo)

  • Air Canada/Air Canada Rouge

  • WestJet (Daily Canada to London Gatwick flights)

  • Icelandair (Daily to Heathrow)

© Tyler McDowell 2018.

All images below by Tyler McDowell unless otherwise stated.

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