The Wall Street Journal rekindled rumors yesterday that United Airlines may purchase new Boeing 767 aircraft from Boeing. Whether that happens or not, the 767 has found new life and will not shut down.
For weeks we’ve heard that United Airlines could be the “savior” of the ailing Boeing 767 program, an aircraft that has seemingly been marginalized by the 737 MAX and 787. It has been three years since Boeing made a passenger version of the aircraft.
United currently operates 51 767 passenger jets, including 35 767-300ERs and 16 767-400ERs.
So will United buy as it looks for a “goldilocks” plane to maximize performance on certain routes? A United spokesman did not sound confident.
We have not recently asked for an offer for any particular wide-body aircraft type but have in the ordinary course of discussions asked for information about several wide-body aircraft, including the 767.
The good news for Boeing is that it does not need United’s support. It’s already increasing the production line of the Boeing 767 (now up to 30 aircraft per year).
Thank the United States Air Force and FedEx, who still have 101 unfilled 767 orders. The USAF needs more refueling tankers, Amazon is also on the hunt for 767s (it plans to acquire 40) but will likely buy used.
That’s why Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said:
We don’t see the 767 line as a sunset-ing production line. It’s a strong, long-term production line, and it does have some growth opportunities for us.
Boeing is looking at a 767 substitute, likely called the 797, but that won’t be out for another eight years…at least.
In the meantime, it appears the non-passenger sector will keep the 767 program alive, whether United decides to buy more jets or not.
image: Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr