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Ode to the 767 (www.askthepilot.com)
124 points by smacktoward 11 days ago | hide | past | web | 65 comments | favorite

My son and I try to visit the cockpit every time we fly. This last trip included an AA 767-300.

After being in the glass cockpits on the newer aircraft, the 767 is a real throwback. It feels almost military in it's apperance and setup.

Compare the 767: https://imgproc.airliners.net/photos/airliners/1/5/9/0247951...

To an A340: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cf/A3...

Or try the A350, which is just full on glass: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/RYQL4QdHzFA/maxresdefault.jpg

767s can be retrofit to that state though, and some airlines have done so. This is a rendering of a cockpit retrofit for a 767 freighter commissioned by UPS: https://www.rockwellcollins.com/sitecore/content/Data/News/2...

How do they deal with the glare on all those screens? Do they use a special kind of panel that doesn't become unreadable when sunlight falls on it?

There are very few, if any, angles where the sun can fall on the primary panel. Also, just above is a shelf that juts out (with many of the commonly touched buttons) called the glareshield that keeps direct light off the instruments.

Finally, the dynamic lighting range of the displays is unholy; I've been in the cockpit at night when the mechanic working on something cranked up the brightness to full (he warned me first) — it felt close to staring into an LED flashlight. There's plenty of oomph there to make it readable in daylight.

Computer LCD screens weren't so susceptible to glare until sometime in the past decade when manufacturers decided that the deep black is worth the sacrifice.

Before that, screens were simply matte, I think. And now there are matte films that you can slap on the smooth glareful screen (much recommend).

They use displays designed to be readable in full, direct sunlight: https://www.l3aviationproducts.com/products/104-multi-functi...

I assume it is similar (but higher quality) to the LCDs in car instrument panels. Very bright, and angled such that sunlight rarely hits them.

I didn't know "visiting the cockpit" was still allowed anywhere since 9/11.

It's very often allowed on Southwest on the ground if you have kids, particularly if you are doing a stopover. If you have young kids, book your next flight with a stop (where you stay on the plane), and ask nicely, you should be able to get a cool picture of the family in the cockpit. We've done it twice, my son loved it.

I'm brown and did it in 2005. The pilot and FA's were very nice!

In the planewatcher community it's very common to ask if you can talk to the pilots after you land. Apparently they're usually amenable to chat with plane bluffs!

Everyone loves talking about their job. =)

My kid is always wearing some kind of aviation-themed t-shirt or his favorite Boeing hoodie, so that kind of signals we're pretty safe...

As a kid in the early 80s, I used to love going to the cockpit. British Airways had a "Junior Jet Club" [1,2] for children, figureheaded by Captain Leo Budd, a Concorde pilot (amazing the names/things that stay in memory after 35 years!). Club members had a logbook [3] and on each flight you'd give the book to a flight attendant who would have the Captain complete and sign it. There were awards after you travelled so many miles. Every single time we'd get an invite to the flight deck mid-flight, usually over the alps, on the way to/from the Mediterranean.

I've been fortunate enough to fly first class on many top tier airlines since then but nothing will ever beat the thrill of those early flights being led to the cockpit by a flight attendant, bursting with anticipation, ready to meet the pilots and see where in the world we were flying, through the front window of the plane.

[1] - https://www.boeing.com/boeing100/stories/2016/march/junior-j... [2] - https://www.adventuresinfamilyland.com/blast-from-the-past-b... [3] - http://www.danzfamily.com/archives/2005/02/boac_junior_jet.p...

Should have clarified we ask to visit the cockpit after landing. Usually we wait until almost everyone has deboarded, then we ask the purser if it’s possible. If the pilot hasn’t rushed off to another flight we can almost always get a few minutes to chat.

It is on the ground, no longer allowed in the air.

It was disallowed in-flight in the USA before 2000 (by Air Canada at least). I was on an Air Canada flight where I was invited to the cockpit fir a visit but only while in Canadian airspace.

We were boarding a Qatar Airways flight when the pilot literally came out of nowhere and took my three year old to see the cockpit.

I was like, could I have my child back please? While she enjoyed herself, I'm not sure she understood what the cockpit was for...

Things are way laxer in other parts of the world.

Helicopter parenting is much better than jumbo jet parenting.

I haven't ever done it in flight, but every time I've asked (30something dude traveling alone, no kids or anything) I've been accommodated, both in the US and overseas. It never felt 'weird' and I was never given the impression that it wasn't allowed or in any way unusual.

You can also ask to tour the tower at SFO as well. but you need to call ahead and jump through hurdles to get to the right people apparently.

Outside the USA most airlines permit it except to/from USA. My kid loved it.

Not true. They won’t do it in the air but they will certainly do it after landing in the USA.

“what do you mean “not true”? I’m saying my son had certainly visited the the cockpit in flight in the last decade. (He’s old enough now that he isn’t really a kid, and also less interested).

I suppose i can’t testify to “most”, not having sampled a majority of the world’s airlines, but certainly on major carriers like Aeroflot and smaller regionals they aren’t so uptight.

Some notable airlines have retired their 767 fleets recently. British Airways did a few months ago, a former BA 767 pilot posted a fantastic retrospective: https://tim-the-pilot.co.uk/2018/11/23/a-personal-reflection...

And just this week, Hawaiian Airlines is flying their last 767 flights. More details: http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=20974085

It looks like their last 767 revenue flight landed in HNL a few hours ago, HA43 SJC-HNL flown by N594HA, a 767-300 originally delivered to Delta in October 1986! An airframe that predates the Macintosh II, still flying. Crazy to think about.

I just flew on a 767 with BA a few weeks ago. The cabin definitely felt dated

None of the 76 B52 airframes in service are newer than 55 years old.

That is true, and they’re planned to stay in service (with new engines and radars) until at least 2050! They fly a lot less than a commercial airliner though, with wing surfaces limited to ~30,000 hours. (https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/b-52-life.htm)

Whereas the 767 is rated up to 50,000 cycles. In 2010, the feet leader had 101,000 hours and 31,000 cycles. (https://www.elal.com/en/ELALTech/Documents/Press_Releases/76...)

It's an apples to oranges comparison. The types of air-frames are totally different. A B52 has a wing that flops all over the place the entire fuselage is not pressurized like on a commercial jet.

Also commercial aviation is a lot less hard on equipment than military service because they optimize for comfort and cost whereas the military is going to doing combat readiness stuff regularly and that involves much more stress on the air-frames.

The military does run their stuff pretty hard but at the same time a commercial airliner pretty much runs 24/7 because every minute it's not in the air is a waste of money. Military stuff always has to be ready to go but that doesn't mean it's always actually doing something.

The takeoff and landing stories seem to suggest that the excess thrust and responsive controls of the 767 make it safer than a more sluggish plane, since it can fly faster and higher out of a potentially dangerous situation.

I wonder if this is just the subjective feeling of a pilot, or if the 767 actually has a record of using its high power and maneuverability to avoid accidents that a 737, for example, would not have been able to avoid. There's a lot of information out there about actual crashes, but not much about narrowly avoided crashes.

Probably a little bit safer, and much more comfortable for the pilots since the fuselage is so much wider. Airlines care about cost. On cost, the 737 is a huge winner, because it's the most produced airliner ever, by a wide margin. It also has a wide range of sizes, from 103 on a -600 to 188 on a MAX 10. There are lots of pilots that already have a 737 type certificate, there are lots of maintenance shops that can work on them, parts are very available anywhere in the world, and leasing companies like them because they are very common and thus a relatively liquid asset.

>There's a lot of information out there about actual crashes, but not much about narrowly avoided crashes.

Actually the FAA collects information about near-misses too, and records them in the same database that it uses for crashes, the rather unfortunately named Accidents and Incidents Data System (https://www.asias.faa.gov/apex/f?p=100:12::::::). Navigating the interface takes some doing, but every accident and near-miss is recorded there, sorted by carrier, source airport, destination airport, and aircraft make and model.

For example, here (https://www.asias.faa.gov/apex/f?p=100:18:::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT...) is a incident in which a plane caused another plane to abort takeoff by using a taxiway without clearance.

Another incident (https://www.asias.faa.gov/apex/f?p=100:18:::NO::AP_BRIEF_RPT...) where the plane overran the end of the runway and ended up in the grass.

The FAA is really good about collecting data on aviation incidents. Making that data available to the public is another matter.

NASA's aviation close-call database, however, is entirely open to the public. And these reports make for some great reading!


Ability to apply excess thrust is a big advantage when hitting wind shear on landing. Or when you lose an engine.

I suspect a big advantage of hybrid electric aircraft would be faster throttle control because electrically driven fans would spin up fast.

I sometimes hear that it's safer to drive a car with a more powerful engine, other things being equal, because the extra power gives you the ability to accelerate out of a dangerous situation. I've always found that argument a little dubious, because very few people have the training to accelerate safely in such a situation. On the ground, it's usually safer to stop a.s.a.p.

When you're flying a fixed-wing aircraft, however, it's not an option to stop where you are. So I guess it can be handy to be able to fly away at a high speed and steep angle!

The story comes from towing, where the vehicles are often only stable in tension (if weight is poorly distributed or strange aerodynamic loads) and you can damp the oscillation by hitting the gas on the tow or the electric brakes on the trailer. It you try to stop the oscillation by hitting the brakes on the tow, you'll end up in a horrible accident.

The aerodynamic load of a trailer is enough at highway speeds that its like hitting the trailer brakes already if you panic and take your foot off the gas, so if that didn't cause a recovery you're best off flooring it to get the system in tension which usually eliminates sway, then carefully slow down.

People who haven't looked into the mechanical engineering of towing are often confused why 400 pounds of stuff in the pickup bed is no problem but 400 pounds of trailer requires strange elaborate sway bars and brake systems and strange dampeners on the hitch... its a oscillation damper not a total power dissipation issue.

In theory a perfect aerodynamic and weight balance tow and trailer would never fishtail at any speed; in practice of course they do.

>400 pounds of trailer requires strange elaborate sway bars and brake systems and strange dampeners on the hitch.

You don't need any sway control whatsoever so long as the weight distribution is sane for the speed you want to travel. Look at large boat trailers for examples. They never have sway control unless the owner adds it because they want to load the boat farther back (because their vehicle can't handle the tongue weight).

Vehicles not being able to handle the tongue weight of a properly loaded trailer is becoming less of an issue for light loads because asinine CAFE rules force OEMs to push the axles to the very edges of the vehicle increasing wheelbase and reducing rear overhang so your average car or small/midsize SUV today can handle tongue weight a lot better than 15yr ago.

>In theory a perfect aerodynamic and weight balance tow and trailer would never fishtail at any speed; in practice of course they do.

Only because people are idiots and procrastinate putting the heavy things in the uhaul until the end and then they want to drive 80mph with it. It's not a matter of theory vs reality. There are very few situations where you can't get good weight distribution if you have ten brain cells and ten seconds to plan how you're gonna load stuff.

I think it depends on the driver if they're able to handle the power during routine driving.

Here is a 7 second video of Tesla driver accelerating out of what would have been a bad rear-end accident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRR31NaXoVw

Sidenote: I too have a 2 channel (front and rear) Blackvue dash cam setup. I highly recommend it. It's already paid for itself when it got me back my deductible after someone hit me, whereas without the camera the blame would have been 50/50.

Perhaps overall it's dubious, but I was once overtaking a large lorry on a 2-lane section of motorway, so I was between the central crash barrier and the lorry. As I drew level with the front of the trailer / the back of the tractor, the lorry started to drift into my lane.

Braking, I'd have had to avoid all of the trailer, but stamping on the accelerator got me out of his way before the driver realised and corrected to stay in lane.

I'm not saying that power is always the solution, but it's handy to have it in some circumstances.

In (less civilized) countries with mountainous roads, I'd take extra power for overtaking since you often move in to the oncoming lane to do so. With a smaller engine you could be stuck behind a truck for 15 minutes.

Obviously depends on road conditions, but stronger engine means you need a smaller window to make it.

More related to the write up on the 757, but it really is a versatile plane.

They started taking the -300 into DCA a few years back and it's a bit nerve wracking. Barely enough runway for takeoff and doing the river visual approach -- which has you hang a hard right over the 14th Street bridge so low that you can read people's phones through their sunroofs -- is extra cozy.

That's my favorite approach. It's also by far the most nerve wracking :)

Related, an actual ode to a specific Boeing 727 nicknamed "Big Flo" that was used in a crash test in the Mexican desert:




This same pilot wrote a love letter to the 757, too. In contrast, when I worked among all the aircraft nerds at Boeing, there was, interestingly, a clear favorite. The 767 was cool, and the 757 was a piece of junk. I don't think I ever got a straight answer as to why. It just was.

That’s interesting. Most pilots I speak with who fly both prefer the 757. It’s over powered and just really performs according to what I’ve been told.

It could be the pilot-versus-engineer difference. Maybe mere size: the 767 was built in the Big factory in Everett, while the 757 was down in the little factory in Renton. Knowing engineers, it could well have been some minor technical detail that no pilot or passenger would ever see.

Of course, the 767 performs pretty well even when underpowered! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Canada_Flight_143

The 57 and 67 story I heard from older heads was that the 57 wing used then-new computer modeling for the wing design, while the 67 was more traditional for risk management. The 57 wing outperformed the computer models, making it more of a “hot rod” in some respects.

And what's Boeing selling? 737 variants. First flight in 1967. Cabin diameter hasn't changed. The Greyhound Bus of airliners.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it? (Not that there aren't plenty of things wrong with the 737.) It works well enough for short-haul US domestic, which is most of it, and unlike newer jets, there's less R&D cost to recoup, more safety history, etc, etc.

The 737 has the advantage of being able to spread it's design mistakes over a inordinate number of aircraft. You find and fix design holes and issues with maintenance every time one crashes.

Yeah. The other fun thing about the 737 is the airframe is somewhat similar to the original model, but lots of things have changed. In particular, the landing gear are the same height, but the engine turbines are much larger (more fuel efficient). This is why modern 737 engines are so low to the ground and flat-bottomed instead of round.

my kingdom for a cross country wide body flight.

six hours on a 737 is hell.

I find widebodies a lot more claustrophobic, as strange as it sounds - on a 737 at least you're never too far from a window.

I've flown 8 hours Doha to London on an A319, it was fine. Not as good as the A350 or 787, but a nice change, and certainly better than anything BA have.

Same author has Ode to 757, http://www.askthepilot.com/757-v-737/, and is not a fan of 737. He talks about how Boeing is working on replacemenT to 757 and suggests upgraded 767.

Isn't the 737-9 intended as a replacement for the 757?

That's what Boeing is marketing it as, but the 757 has higher performance. Being designed for turbojet engines, the 737 is too low to the ground to use any bigger turbofan engines than it currently does, and getting it higher off the ground is difficult (can't just shove a taller landing gear in there). The -9 (if I remember correctly) will need a telescoping landing gear in order to fit big enough engines under the wings. The design seems pretty maxed out in that regard.

For anyone interested in getting really up close with a 767 there is one named the Spirit of Delta at Delta Air Lines’ museum in Atlanta.

It’s rare for a relatively modern airliner to be placed in a museum but the Spirit of Delta is notable because it was actually purchased through donations by the employees of Delta.

This guy applauds airlines who fly the 757, like Icelandair. Icelandair has so many technical issues, that they rarely manage to make it across atlantic without significant delay. People who fly cross atlantic with Icelandair know what I mean

So no.

Compare the big three airlines to Southwest's business model: https://slate.com/business/2012/06/southwest-airlines-profit...

They essentially have kept operations streamlined by using one plane for all flights, so all pilots and flight crew can fly the entire fleet.

Most modern jets are worse in key ways than the 767. More freaks and rattles during take off and landing. Airbus are particularly bad in this regard. The 767 by contrast feels like a big old Buick. (The triple 7 is my favorite though. Marvelous plane. It’s been downhill ever since.)

> Most modern jets are worse in key ways than the 767. More freaks and rattles during take off and landing

What a weird comment. Probably the reason you think modern aircraft have more "creaks and rattles" than older ones is that their engines are so much quieter you can actually hear some minor rattling of the cabin fitout on bumpy runways.

I've been an avgeek my whole life and while I'm nostalgic for the old planes, I don't think I could ever delude myself into thinking they're in any way "better". Turns out the manufacturers, and the airlines, and the passengers, agree. The 777 is my favourite too - from the outside. Tell me I have to spend 12 hours inside the damn thing though and I'll choose an a350 - or a b787 - every time.

I don’t know if passengers agree. I go out of my way to take a 777 for international travel over a 787. But the latter is a lot more fuel efficient, which is why airlines prefer them.

Well, I suppose I would sometimes as well, but that's to do with airline seating choices more than anything else. Emirates has 10-across economy in its 777s - no thanks! Whereas Cathay stuck with 9, which is way better. Meanwhile a Qantas 787 is pretty nice to ride in, but a Jetstar or Scoot is cramped as hell. Noise cancelling headphones pretty much remove the noise issue for me.

You're right though, I over-generalised saying all passenger prefer newer planes all of the time - they don't. What they emphatically do prefer, however, is point to point flights - which the new generations of planes open up. Bigger planes like the 777s and above are in many ways a relic of the hub and spoke system, with its multiple transfers and 24hr+ flight times.

I'm sad to see the big planes reduced in importance, but newcomers like the 787, a350 and even a321 render a lot more city pairs economically viable. For this reason they're far more versatile an investment for the airliners, and passengers choose direct every time if the price is reasonable.

Really? As a passenger, 777s are way noisier than modern jets like 787 or A380.

The 787-900 is just fantastic. Best economy ride I've ever had. I'm not a frequent flier, mind—but it sure beats other jumbo jets I've taken.

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