With so few B757-300s having been produced, there is limited availability and as such there may be some appetite for paying a premium just to secure the aircraft.
There have been a few transactions with aircraft moving between Thomas Cook and Condor. In 2018 a unit was sold by Arkia to Icelandair at a reported price far in excess of the indicated value. However, there has to be a clear differentiation between the price that a buyer may be willing to pay and the value, the latter being used for asset based financing. The operator base has now contracted to only four with Arkia likely to dispose of its remaining unit.
Stretching the B757-200 to become the -300 also stretched the capabilities of operators to manage turnarounds efficiently but with a wider aisle there could be an opportunity for a middle of the market aircraft to succeed where the -300 failed. Larger capacity and a single aisle created problems for operators when seeking to provide the same turnaround times as those for the 150 seaters and the B757-200. Boeing introduced a number of innovations to accelerate the boarding and disembarking of the -300 but operators still struggled. However, in operation the economics of the -300, just as with the -200, proved very attractive as long as the sector length was long enough to compensate for the extra weight associated with the fuselage and engines. The experimentation with the -300 has made manufacturers focus on twin aisle aircraft even though the B787-3 proved less than successful.
When the B757-300 was first ordered by Condor Flugdienst in September 1996 it seemed that the then ubiquitous B757-200 would be accompanied by a worthy companion. Unfortunately, with only 55 orders, the amount of resources expanded on the development of the larger variant has barely seemed worthwhile.
Current operators are limited. Arkia, Condor, Delta, Icelandair, United (Continental) are the only operators with the United fleet representing the largest with 21. The exceptional range and economics of the B757 made the type an ideal candidate for stretching. The wing of the B757, while perhaps not matching the slenderness and efficiency of Airbus products, nonetheless offered Boeing the opportunity to launch a larger aircraft for only modest additional cost. Throughout the early 1990s Boeing recognized three factors that justified the launch of a larger B757. Firstly, existing operators, of which there were many, sought a larger aircraft offering extensive commonality with the existing B757 model as well as retaining the same operating economics. Secondly, sales of the B767-200 were non-existent and a larger B757 provided an interim solution until the B767-200 could be revamped or even a smaller B777 developed. The cost of developing the B757-300 was modest, at least when compared with developing an all-new aircraft. Boeing was already preoccupied with the B777 and B737NG such that funds were scarce, as were orders. Thirdly, Boeing recognized that sales of the B757 were likely to stall in the latter part of the 1990s partly because of market saturation. In the absence of any new replacement the –300 offered to stimulate a modest amount of new sales.
In developing a new aircraft, there are many advantages to stretching rather than shortening an existing design. Stretching the aircraft allows additional weight penalties to be kept to the minimum. While it is necessary to focus on strengthening essential areas of the airframe, such as the wing and fuselage, the weight can in general be kept low. There are however also disadvantages. If the same engine is retained then there are payload/range restrictions. There may also be some difficulty in increasing the fuel capacity. Only if the wing area is increased or extra fuel tanks are installed in the cargo area can capacity be changed. The result is a low empty weight but a penalty on range. The –300 the fuel capacity has actually been reduced slightly from 11,526 gallons to 11,466 gallons.
The stretch of over 23 feet increases the accommodation from around 200 passengers in a two-class configuration to just over 240. The principal differences between the –200 and –300 comprise: a strengthened wing, strut and high lift systems; a strengthened overwing exit body section; revised ECS; a strengthened landing gear and wheels; a strengthened four door aft body section; and a tail skid. The door arrangement comprises four doors and overwing exits contrasting with the B757-200 which has a choice of three doors/overwing exits or four doors.
In addition, the –300 features a new interior comprising new overhead stowage bins; new curved ceiling panels; new interior doorway panels; and a new vacuum waste system. The changes made to the -300 were then incorporated into the -200. The engines remain unchanged with the RB211-535E4 and PW2040 still offering a choice. Because of emission requirements, the RB211 features an improved combustor that reduces NOx. The difference in MTOW between the –200 and –300 is reasonable. Like the –200, the –300 is available with a range of weights. The basic MTOW of the –300 is 240,000lbs, some 15,000lbs less than the maximum of the –200. However, the highest optional MTOW is 272,500lbs.
The impact on range is noticeable. Manufacturers sometimes use a number of differing measurements when measuring range. The normal unit of measurement is a nautical mile but sometimes, perhaps as a means of portraying a longer range, statute miles are used. The B757-300 has a range of a potential 3,470nm but this translates into 4,000 statute miles and compares with 3,950nm of the –200 or 4,550sm. The longer fuselage of the B757-300 also initially raised concerns about tail scrapping and potential damage to the fuselage. However, as long as flight procedures are followed tail scrapes should not occur.
It is interesting to note that the altitude capability of the –300 is comparatively restricted. Boeing has placed great emphasis on the higher cruising altitude of the B737NG that tops 40,000 feet, thus allowing greater routing flexibility. By contrast the B757-300 can fly at 36,800 feet compared to the 39,000 feet of the –200. This poses some problems for the charter operators seeking to maximize fuel efficiency by selecting an optimum cruise altitude or the benefits of the jetstream. Overall, the B757-300 offers at least a 10% improvement in seat mile costs. The cargo capacity is also increased by some 35% from 1,670 cubic feet to 2,370cf.
The stretch of the B757 however, created some problems. The greater capacity of the single aisle aircraft causes embarkation and disembarkation difficulties. For example, a few passengers attempting to put luggage into an overhead locker can materially increase the loading time needed. With business passengers usually offered advance boarding, the problem could become something of a nuisance. Those at the rear of the aircraft will also have to wait longer to disembark. Loading and unloading the passenger cabin could therefore take some 6-8 minutes longer than for the –200. Boeing however considered that with procedures, loading and unloading could be speeded up, particularly if two doors are used – a rarity even for some widebodies. Stricter control over embarkation by seat number is also seen as beneficial.