Boeing Co. today rolled out the 767, the first of a new generation of quiet, more-fuel-efficient passenger airplanes.

The first entirely new Boeing commercial passenger aircraft to go into production since the 747 in 1966, the red, white and blue 767 made its debut in front of a host of dignitaries and 15,000 Boeing employes to the accompaniment of theme music from the movie "2001."

Seventeen foreign and domestic airlines have ordered the twin-engine, wide-body aircraft, which incorporates the latest noise-reduction, fuel-conservation and advanced cockpit technology. United Airlines, the first of six U.S. airlines to order the plane, kicked off Boeing's 767 program three years ago when it ordered 30 of the planes, boosted since to 39. Boeing has firm orders for 173 of the planes and options for 138 more, making it Boeing's most successful aircraft program at this stage in its development.

The jet is powered by two of the latest high-bypass-ratio turbo fan engines, produced by either General Electric or Pratt & Whitney, and is designed to consume 35 percent less fuel per seat than the airplanes it will replace. The 767 looks very similar to the Airbus, the plane produced by a consortium of European aircraft makers, and it about four feet wider than Boeing's 727s and 707s. The plane has two aisles allowing seven passengers to sit across in a 2-3-2 seating arrangement.

The plane seats 211 in a mixed first class and coach arrangement, but can seat up to 290. Its range is 3,000 nautical miles, approximately the distance between New York and San Francisco.

"The plane you've built will let us airlines give better service and let us hold back the rising fares at the same time," Richard J. Ferris, United Airlines chairman and chief executive officer, said.

United will get four of the first five 767s to be delivered. United will take delivery of its first plane about a year from now after a flight test program is completed. The plane that was rolled out today will be kept by Boeing and used during the test and certification process.

Although United and other airlines have ordered the 767 with a three-person cockpit, Ferris said the planes to be delivered would be converted to a two-person cockpit. Since the Federal Aviation Administration has adopted the conclusions of a presidential commission that the new-generation aircraft can be flown safely with a crew of two, United's pilots have agreed to a tentative contract allowing United's new 767s to be flown by two persons.

The airlines have suffered declining traffic, and many have not been earning the profits they need to pay for the new airplanes -- which cost between $35 million and $40 million each. But Ferris predicted today that 1982 would be "a very good year for the airline industry" and that orders for new planes would begin to rise. The first 767 rolled out today from an assembly plant that Boeing claims is the largest building in the world -- 62 acres under one roof.

Although a Boeing airplane, between 45 percent and 50 percent of the 767 is produced by 1,300 subcontractors outside the Boeing company, including significant Italian and Japanese company participation.

The rollout of the 767 came about one-half year before its major competitor for worldwide sales, the Airbus A310, is scheduled to come off its assembly line in Europe.