British Airways operated its final Boeing 757 rotations on Oct. 30, bringing an end to an era which began 27 years ago in February 1983.
Aviation Week was lucky enough to be invited aboard the final flights operated by BA’s red, white and blue “retrojet” G-CPET.
The last London Heathrow departure, at 17:41, was a rapid affair as we took off at full power from runway 27R on a Shuttle flight to Edinburgh. We touched down at 18:30 and 1 hr. 12 min later made a similarly spritely departure from Edinburgh on the 66 min return leg.
For that last flight the 757, which weighed in at 83 t and appropriately had a zero fuel weight of “75.7 t”, climbed rapidly to 39,000 ft. Later on we descended to 9,000ft over Manchester and Birmingham and then routed overhead Echo Tango’s namesake, Stokesay Castle in Shropshire, before climbing slightly to enter the London TMA.
Flying the aircraft for its final revenue services was BA’s most experienced 757 pilot, Capt Chris Smith, who has spent some 20 years at the controls of the jet. In the right hand seat as SFO Rich Ablewhite, who was just a lad when BA introduced the 757 (and had a picture of him at Heathrow as a little boy in shorts with the 757 tails in the background to prove it!).
Also on the flightdeck for the historic last services was BA’s 757/767 FTM Capt John Monks, who reminded us that when the 757 made its debut in 1983, there was no Terminal 4 at Heathrow, let alone a T5!
“It’s been really great fun as well as a little bit sad today,” said Capt Smith. “We did full power take-offs, which we wouldn’t normally do, and reached in excess of 6,000ft/min from both Heathrow and Edinburgh. Indeed from Heathrow, we were above 2,500 ft. by the time we got to the end of the runway.”
G-CPET spent its last day operating the Shuttle routes from Heathrow to Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, the part of BA’s network where the type made its debut and spent much of its career.
The other two BA 757s that remained operational on the last day were deployed on Spanish routes from Heathrow’s Terminal 3 where they have been focused in recent times – the 757 is not suited to T5 short-haul operations due to its size and its lack of containerised cargo capability.
Echo Tango arrived back on Heathrow’s runway 09L at 20:48, after the last of the Spanish flights had landed, meaning that it had the honour of making BA’s final 757 touchdown. As is tradition, the aircraft taxied through an arch of water sprayed by Heathrow’s fire service – but not before some last minute negotiations were needed to overcome “elf and safety” concerns!
The 166 passengers on board – a mix of somewhat bemused regular travellers and some enthusiasts who had booked to be part of the farewell celebrations – were each given a certificate to mark the flight. The aircraft, along with its sisters, will now remain at Heathrow for a while before heading off to the USA for a new life as a freighter with FedEx Express.
Stay tuned to Things With Wings for a video of the final 757 flight, which will follow soon!