British Airways Puts Boeing 767 Fleet into Retirement

A British Airways Boeing 767, registered as G-BZHA, on final approach. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

The last British Airways service operated by a Boeing 767 landed at London Heathrow for the final time on Sunday evening following almost three decades of operations for the airline.

The 767 was the first wide-body twinjet aircraft designed by Boeing which took to the air in 1981 and was also the first airliner to have a glass cockpit for the two crew flight deck. Although the aircraft shared commonality with the Boeing 757, of which pilots could operate interchangeably on the same rating, the 767 became more distinct to the eye with its main landing gear hanging the ‘opposite’ way to the 757 as well as other aircraft.

G-BZHA, a 20-year-old Boeing 767-336(ER), flew BA663 flight from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Heathrow, a route that was frequently served by the type. When the airline phased out the Lockheed TriStar in 1991, which was being replaced by the incoming 767, the last route served by the three-engined aircraft was also Larnaca.

British Airways announced its relationship with the 767 in 1987 when the airline decided to order a total of 28 of the 767-300 variant from Boeing, rather than the Airbus A300 aircraft that was also on offer. The first delivery took place in February 1990 with the airline opting for the Rolls Royce RB211 engines.

The 767 fleet began operating short-haul destinations before the airline phased out the Lockheed TriStar and DC-10s which handed over certain long-haul routes to the Middle East, Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean to the 767, boosting its reputation as a versatile aircraft.

The 767’s entry into British Airways didn’t occur without any problems. Following the decision to equip the aircraft with RB211s instead of the General Electric CF6 or the Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines that were already in use by United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the fleet (seven at the time) had been temporarily grounded after the discovery of cracks up to 33cm long in the engine pylons caused by the added weight of the Rolls Royce engines which were 2,205 lbs heavier than the previously mentioned powerplants.

Even after this problem had been fixed, some of the 767 aircraft endured spells in the desert storage facilities following the events of the First and Second Gulf War’s and 9/11 meant a reduction in operations that the aircraft could operate across the network.

It took eight years from the delivery of the first 767 to the last. Then only two years later the airline decided it needed to reduce the fleet numbers due to overcapacity and the outcome was to send the seven redundant 767s to Qantas.

Eventually, the aircraft sat comfortably in both short and long-haul operations, with flights to the Caribbean and North American cities such as Baltimore, and to New York and Los Angeles from the airline’s old hub in Manchester. The aircraft also visited South America where it would operate to Caracas, Venezuela, before shuttling to Bogota, Colombia.

Towards the end of its service, the aircraft ended up on European routes with its high-density two-class layout. Destinations such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Edinburgh, Athens were served and while the phasing out of the fleet took place, short-haul routes were being taken on by the Airbus A320 family fleet and the Boeing 787 taking over some of the long-haul routes.

G-BZHA and G-BZHB, the last two 767s, positioned from Heathrow to St Athan, Wales, on Monday morning where they will be deconstructed and parts will be available to other operators around the world.

The retirement of the fleet also brings an end to the careers of those who flew the type.  The Captain of flight BA663, Julie Levy, retires with the fleet after spending more than 30 years with the airline. Captain Chris Letchford will also retire once he has ferried G-BZHA from Heathrow to St Athan on Monday.

James Dinsdale
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James Dinsdale

James is a keen aviation enthusiast from the United Kingdom. He has been flying since the age of 13 and today, aged 23, flies the Airbus A319/320 series for one of Europe's largest airlines.
James Dinsdale
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