Air New Zealand's last Boeing 767 takes flight today, ending 32 years of service for the plane described as the Dreamliner of its time.

Millions of passengers have flown on 767s which opened up the Pacific Rim for the airline. Air New Zealand has carried a Pope, America's Cup winners and the Rolling Stones in the plane. At least three wedding proposals were made on board.

First flown commercially by Delta in 1982, the wide-body plane was smaller than a 747 jumbo but had features that were revolutionary for the time.

Its digital "glass cockpit" provided enough information to two pilots and did away with the need for a flight engineer.


It was made from the latest material available at the time, had bigger overhead bins than previously seen and a large galley at the rear of the plane that was popular with crew and boasted fuel economy up to 35 per cent greater than the planes they replaced.

It was designed to fly transcontinental routes across the United States but was soon put to work flying across the Atlantic and stretched versions across the Pacific.

The 767 went on to became the first twin-engine plane certified to fly for three hours away from the nearest airport on one engine.

Air New Zealand got its first 767-200 in 1985 and it was a game-changer, said David Morgan, the airline's chief operations integrity and safety officer.

In the mid-1980s Air New Zealand's fleet was limited.

"At that time it was five 747s and a DC8 freighter; that was the sum total of the international fleet," Morgan said.

"The 767 allowed the airline to deliver the growth strategy which about was bringing wide-body capacity into a whole lot of new markets into Asia and across the Tasman as well."

Morgan said the new plane with a long range and capability to land on shorter runways allowed Air New Zealand to fly deeper into Japan and to Taipei, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Bali and Perth.


It also did return flights between Auckland and Wellington.

"It was a really versatile airplane with a lot of capability," said Morgan, who was at one time the 767 fleet manager.

"All pilots who have flown them would say they're an honest airplane. They have very few vices and it's a delightful aircraft to operate."

Morgan said in the mid-1980s the 767 is what the 787 is today.

"It does reflect the technology change that comes along every 20 to 30 years."

The Air New Zealand 767 fleet got another lease of life from 2008 when it was fitted with winglets to improve aerodynamic efficiency and save fuel.


Morgan said the cost of the retrofitting programme was paid back in two years as the aircraft saved 5 per cent on fuel burn.

But the planes were no longer equipped to support products Air New Zealand wanted in its planes, including inflight entertainment systems, Morgan said.

Air New Zealand will operate its final scheduled service using its Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with flight NZ108 departing Sydney at 6:55pm local time, arriving at Auckland Airport just before midnight.

"The Boeing 767 aircraft has been a stalwart at Air New Zealand for more than 30 years now but moving to operate the modern 787-9 Dreamliners on our long-haul routes will allow us to be more efficient and have a consistent wide-body fleet which will deliver benefits to both the business and customers,'' Morgan said.