Used Aircraft Review: Boeing 767

Apr 27, 2015 - 4:45 PM

Feeling cramped in your large-cabin bizjet? Maybe you need one of these.

More than a thousand Boeing 767s have been delivered since the aircraft made its first flight in 1981. Its popularity with the airlines—which can stuff 200 to 304 passengers in one, depending on model and configuration—has waned in recent years, however. The commercial carriers are increasingly parking 767s and ­opting for more modern and fuel-efficient successors. 

For well-heeled individuals (see below) who worry less about fuel costs, though, the 767 can offer a lot of aircraft for a relatively low price. The model was developed in tandem with the narrow-body Boeing 757 (see review in the December 2013/January 2014 BJT), which also features first-generation glass-panel avionics; the same pilot type rating is good for both aircraft. 

Variants of the 767 include the 767-200, 200ER (extended range), 300, 300ER, 400ER and freighter. The Dash 300 models have a 21-foot fuselage stretch to 180 feet compared with the series 200s; the 400ER has another 21 feet on top of that for a total of 201 feet. Range varies (without auxiliary fuel tanks) from 3,850 nautical miles for a Dash 200 to 6,473 nautical miles for a Dash 400ER with winglets. The majority of 767s produced to date are 300ER models. 

While most all models have seen VIP duty, you’ll find the best deals on the older Dash 200s and 200ERs. The Dash 200s can also use considerably shorter runways—5,800 feet at the maximum takeoff weight of 315,000 pounds. (Weights on other variants increase to 450,000 pounds and runway requirements can expand to 10,200 feet for a 400ER at maximum takeoff weight.) That can make these Dash 200 aircraft more attractive to corporate and VIP users who traditionally desire to access more airports with shorter runways. 

You can pick one up in airline configuration for as little as $9 million, and that’s a pretty good deal for a big—and I do mean big—airplane that can fly 8,000 miles nonstop at a top speed of 469 knots. (A new 767 with an airline interior will set you back $185 million.) Even if you install a beautiful interior, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than $50 million for the package—unless, of course, you want a throne room and antimissile defense. 

With aircraft of this vintage, parts and product support as well as getting things like upgraded avionics can be problematic. That’s probably not going to be the case with this airplane for a long time, however. That’s because the U.S. Air Force recently ordered a bunch of them—it will ultimately buy as many as 179—to use as aerial refueling tankers. On Dec. 28, 2014, the Air Force made the first test flight of a 767-2C, which will eventually become the KC-46A “Pegasus” tanker. That means the parts line for the 767 will stay open, even if no one else orders the airplane.  

Encouraged by the Air Force contract and the increasing popularity of the 767 as an air freighter, Rockwell-Collins has developed an upgraded avionics suite for the airplane that is virtually identical to the system found in Boeing’s new 787. The system features three large-format LCD displays that replace six cathode-ray-tube displays and numerous analog instruments. Rockwell-Collins says the equipment will be 150 pounds lighter, will run cooler than the old avionics and will feature all the latest safety technology, including airport taxi maps, data-link weather, surface guidance and synthetic and enhanced vision systems. Installation time is a few days, according to Rockwell-Collins. 

The price of updating the avionics will seem like pocket change compared with the cost of keeping a bird like this in the air. It takes 24,140 U.S. gallons to gas up an ER variant, 16,700 for a straight 200 or 300. 

In the unlikely event you do run out of fuel, you’ll be glad to know that the 767 makes a great glider. On July 23, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143, a 767-200, was en-route from Montreal to Edmonton when both engines shut down. Thanks in part to the aircraft’s excellent handling characteristics, the crew was able to glide 80 miles and execute a “dead stick” landing at a former Royal Canadian Air Force base in Gimli, Manitoba. 

The eight crewmembers and 61 passengers survived without serious injury. An investigation later determined that only half the required fuel to make the trip had been loaded aboard due in part to a misunderstanding of metric conversions. (Canada had just adopted the metric system.) The flight is referred to in aviation lore as the “Gimli Glider.”  

Mark Huber is a private pilot with experience in more than 50 aircraft types.


Who Owns These Huge Aircraft?

The list of private Boeing 767 wide-bodied twinjet owners is short but distinguished. It includes Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, several unidentified members of Middle Eastern royalty and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. The latter’s airplane, dubbed “the bandit,” features distinctive black masks painted around the exterior cockpit windows, plus gold fixtures and an antimissile defense system. Abramovich, who owns England’s Chelsea Football Club, often parks the jet at Harrod’s FBO at London Stansted during football season.

The most famous and controversial private ­Boeing 767 was completed in 2001 for China’s president by a U.S. company in San Antonio. The Chinese government claimed it found 27 listening devices embedded in the luxury interior; so the airplane was debugged, denuded of its VIP amenities and pressed into service with the national airline, Air China. It was never conclusively determined whether the jet had really been bugged and, if so, where and by whom. But following the incident, the owners of the Texas completion company built a hangar with state-of-the-art security to cater to the super-paranoia of the super-rich. 

Altogether, Boeing claims to have delivered eight 767s for VIP use; but the actual number in service is likely higher as some are remodeled airliners. That was the case with “Google One,” which Page and Brin picked up for just $15 million. They then spent additional millions to revamp the interior to include two large staterooms, a first-class compartment and a large dining area.

Even more luxurious was the 767-200 I visited while its “royal” interior was being installed in Illinois in 2001. The former airliner was fitted with a “throne room” for the principal and his many wives, over-the-top veneers and smatterings of precious metals throughout. A decade later, that airplane was for sale for a mere fraction of its former value—just $33 million. “I don’t think you would find anything in the public sector with an interior at this level,” its former operator told me. 

Ya think? —M.T.