April 8, 2007

Flight Plans: 2nd Edition

Boeing went through an interesting phase in its corporate life in the late 1990s and early part of this decade. In short, it was a manufacturer of derivative aircraft. Aircraft like the 717, 737-600/700/800/900, 747-400ER, the 757-300, the 777-200LR/300ER rolled off the production line. Aircraft like these stretched the capabilities of the existing Boeing (or old McDonnell Douglas) product line without actually adding an entirely new product. During this time period Boeing was criticized for its lack of new offerings to the market.

One such derivative offering was the 767-400ER. A stretched 767 that fit in just below the 777-200, seating between 245 to 375 passengers. The aircraft had several very interesting features. The aircraft was the first on Boeing's product line that featured raked wingtips. Now standard on the 777-200LR/300ER, 747-800 and 787-800/900. In addition, the interior design incorporated the very popular 777 interior with curved overhead bins and new lighting. Another 777 feature which made it onto the 400ER was the introduction of the 777 style cockpit. The 777 and 767-400ER flight decks are practically indistinguishable from one another. The only exceptions being the non-glass backup instruments, no cursor control device and CRT flight management computer screens.

The 400ER was designed as a replacement for the retiring DC-10s and L1011s. Rumors still exist today whether or not the 400ER was designed specifically for Delta. Today the 400ER flies with Delta (21) and Continental (26) and has been moved around on many different types of routes. Some to Hawaii, some within the continental US, at one point to Europe and South America. The 767-400ER routes are constantly changing and have been subject of much discussion within the aviation enthusiast community. This niche aircraft, which will likely be replaced by the 787-900 (which Continental has purchased), has not seen a new order since it's first deliveries in 2000.

I had the chance to fly on a Delta 767-400ER on two legs in 2003. One from SLC to LAX and the other from LAX to ATL. Today, Delta still flies the 400ER on the LAX-ATL route. The flight takes a tour of the southern part of the United States, which starts with the HOLTZ Eight (page 2) departure out over the Pacific, then back around towards Palm Springs. The flight covers northern Arizona and New Mexico, Amarillo, Texas, Oklahoma City and Memphis, Tennessee, setting up an arrival from the Northwest to the Jackson-Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.


All Boeing 767-400ER flights over North America.

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