Should Boeing Build A 737 Max Sucessor Or The Boeing 797?

Here at Simple Flying, we are waiting in anticipation for Boeing to reveal the 797 at the upcoming Paris Air Show next month.

However, there is one important question we haven’t actually asked… should Boeing even be building it? With problems regarding the 737 MAX in the spotlight, should they be focusing on a new narrowbody instead?

Boeing 797
Boeing 737 MAX or The Boeing 797. Photo: Simple Flying.

Why build a 797?

First, a quick summary of the 797 business case. The Boeing 797 is set to fill in a ‘gap’ in the market of high-density short routes.

This is a gap of passenger capacity at around 225-275, and within the range of 5,000 nmi. This aircraft could also be twin-aisled, allowing for faster disembarkation and boarding.

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It would be perfect for:

  • An airline that operates popular and dense routes. Sydney to Melbourne, New York to Chicago, London to Paris.
  • An airline that heavily utilized the Boeing 757 or 767 and is looking for a replacement.
  • An airline looking to expand capacity on routes currently operated by Boeing 737s or Airbus A320s
Alitalia Skyteam 767
An Alitalia Boeing 767 in Skyteam livery. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But critics have not been kind. With aircraft like the 787-3 and Airbus A330neo-800 not selling well (the former being outright canceled), and not much demand for the Airbus A321 XLR (all three aircraft are on the fringes of the above specifications), is there even a market?

Plus looking at development cost in the region of $12-15 billion USD, is this a cost that Boeing can afford right now?

Why build a 737 MAX successor?

There are several arguments that Boeing should be working on a 737 MAX successor.

The first, the elephant in the room, is that the aircraft has been involved in two fatal accidents that killed over 300 passengers. This has already put a huge stigma on the aircraft, with many passengers (and commentators) refusing to ever fly on them again.

The basic aircraft design of the 737 MAX is over 50 years old and, despite trying to pack in new tech, it’s literally a relic from a bygone era. Boeing has continued to use this tried and true model in an effort to save on development and engineering costs.

Boeing 737 MAX
Boeing originally had four different variants of the 737 MAX available. Photo: Boeing.

But as we have seen, this principle of sticking with a popular but old airframe has led to some problems with the aircraft. Perhaps it’s time for Boeing to scrap everything and begin anew with a narrowbody design that does not have the flaws of the 737 design?

What does Airbus think?

Some aviation experts, especially those at rival Airbus, believe that Boeing should focus on a new narrowbody and wait to develop the Boeing 797.

Former COO of Airbus, John Leahy, spoke to Airline Watch earlier this year about the new Boeing 797. Leahy worked for Airbus from 1994 to 2008 as head of the commercial aircraft division.

If Boeing wants to build something, I would advise them to invest in a new narrowbody airplane that can follow the 737 MAX from the middle of the next decade. Thus, they will be five years earlier than Airbus, who will only come with a successor for the A320 around 2030.

He went on to say that Airlines want a standardized fleet to reduce costs, and are not interested in investing in a new type of aircraft.

Naturally, we should take their comments with a grain of salt, as being the Boeing competitor they wouldn’t want anyone to jump into the market with a bright and shiny new aircraft.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 

  1. Boeing must build its next 797 aircraft from scratch and avoid doing what it did with the 737 Max series.
    Yes, ” a bright and shiny aircraft ” as you said if it can.

  2. Ok. Out of the 2 options I would build a new plane out of composites (like the 787) narrow bodied to replace the 737, and 737 max. The max was surely only planned as a stop gap anyway. I think people will forget about the grounding and crashes as long as more don’t happen… But if this had happened in 10 years time I think Boeing would be on the verge of becoming extinct. Currently the only credible rival is Airbus and they tend to be less fuel efficient and have full order books. But with possible Chinese and Japanese competitors in the mid term future this type of thing could be the death of a company.

    Boeing sold safety features as optional extras and didn’t even know they were doing this. Boeing knew of the issues a year in advance of the first crash and told no one. There is a possibility that shards of metal left in the aircraft during manufacture in order to rush build times caused the sensors to fail. That could kill any company if there was a credible competitor with spare capacity.

  3. I read yesterday on a Dutch website that 60% of passengers in a recent survey said that they did not want to fly on a 737 MAX, if it is re-certified:
    At that rate, it looks as if Boeing will have to introduce a MAX replacement…whether they want to or not. It also looks as if, in the meantime, airlines will have to consider something other than a MAX…whether they want to or not.

  4. I would rebrand the MAXX aircraft and forget the Maxx name altogether. Once a brand like that is tarnished, ditch it. Nobody wants to ride on a modern Titanic or take a ride an improved Pinto, let it go. They need to start a new campaign emphasizing passenger safety and comfort. Run some ads and let the public know that every safety feature for all of their aircraft are shipped as standard equipment from now on. That is something people can buy and get behind. While Boeing will be around forever, the chapter of the Maxx needs to come to a close. When passengers hop on their brans new 737-900E (efficient instead of maxx) they won’t know the difference but they will feel safer anyway.

    As far as a new plane, I think they should invest in something between a 737 and E190. A small efficient commuter plane that doesn’t feel like a commuter plane is the biggest thing you will see most passengers ask for. BTW, I love the ERJ versus CRJ, much roomier. A nice 2 class 130 seater will do.

    1. I find it difficult to comprehend the logic in a rebrand! If any aircraft that Boeing produces is based on the 1960’s 737 legacy frame, wing placement, landing gear and systems – then social media will drown any marketing attempt. Yes it’s time for a new clean sheet. Airlines wont want to change but passengers will demand it. Seems very smart that Boeing didn’t announce the 979 NMA at Paris Air Show. They might be thinking hard about their next move – a new (genuinely new) single isle is a winner for the next 20 or 30 years of production. Do it Boeing you know how to produce a brilliant aircraft – give your engineers the vision they need to create something impressive!

  5. Let’s see What I believe boeing really needs to do is EITHER…

    1. Build a replacement for the 767-200 in particular, an airplane that sat between the ever-popular -300ER and the 757. All the things I’ve read about the “797” have been very similar to what the 767-200 was.

    2. …or how about building an airplane like the 707 with 2 engines? seat 180 – 250 passengers, be able to fly long-range…seems like the kind of plane a lot of airlines want right now

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