From an airline perspective, the 757 has terrific economics and flexibility. If you fly 300 miles or 3000 miles (which can be done with the aircraft), the unit costs do not change radically, which is unusual on an aircraft.
Probably more than that, it can be used in places in which other aircraft, notably the 737 can't be used. A 757 with MTOW can get airborne in less than 5000ft, making it possible to fly into certain airports that it would be impossible for the 737 can support (certain South American airports come into mind). Additionally, the capacity of the 757 in such a STOL situation provides an airline the capability of carrying nearly 200 passengers where the 737 can at best do 150 before weight penalties kick in.
It is a shame that the 753 did not catch on more than it did. It was a unique aircraft and one that could serve certain markets well. Its problem was its size and weight; using the same engines with another 24-25 of fuselage makes the aircraft unable to do the short runway operations like the 752 and when you get to over 200 passengers (which the 753 can do easily), passengers prefer the 767 with the twin aisles that has about the same capacity of passengers (+up to 30 seats).
Finally, the 737NG was the nail in the coffin for the 757. With greater range and less fuel required to operate than the 757, the 738/739s are within 10 seats of the 757 in capacity. An airline that has a fleet of 737NGs will want to stay with the same type of aircraft for longer missions, a la transcon. With the 737-700 being able to do transatlantic in an all Business operation, the 737 mission profile becomes a very flexible one, making the 757 almost redundant. I think this over anything was the demise of the 757.
We will all miss the 757....it is truly a rocket at low weights over short distances; I remember flying SFO
with about 80 on board, we went from sea level to FL410 in under 10 minutes. Out over the ocean, he got the clearance, poured on the coals and flew at a high pitch angle (while still accelerating) and before we were turning SE
, we were already cruising at FL410. There is no other aircraft flying today that can match that performance.
She'll be around for awhile more....another 10 years or so before the airframes start to degrade on the older birds, so we can be flying her for some time to come. Next out of the red barn, the Dreamliner.
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998