Boeing Ponders The 767X – Is This The 797 NMA?

According to reporting by Flight Global today, Boeing is considering a new version of its popular 767 widebody jet. The new iteration would incorporate the GEnx engines for a good boost in efficiency. Initially under scrutiny for the cargo market, reports suggest that a passenger variant could also be under consideration, as a low-risk alternative to the NMA, aka the 797.

The 767X would be based on the 767-400ER. Photo: Rolf Wallner via Wikimedia

A new cargo plane

Flight Global reports having learned of a Boeing project dubbed the 767-XF which examines how the 767 can be reimagined for modern requirements. The project is based on the popular 767-400ER platform, but with powerhouses from GE Aviation, specifically the GEnx engines.

As these engines would be larger than the current CF6 engines, the 767X would require a modified landing gear, to give greater clearance below the plane. Aside of this, very little would be altered from the original 767 design in terms of the fundamental structure of the plane.

Boeing 767X
The project is initially to develop a 767X freighter. Photo: Eric Salard via Wikimedia

The 767-300F is one of the most popular modern cargo aircraft around, along with the 757-200F. However, the 757 is aging, and many cargo airlines are beginning to remove it from their fleets. FedEx and UPS , in particular, are heavy users of the type and have around 60 aircraft still on order.

As a remastered version of the 767F would involve minimal design changes, it would be a lot quicker to market. In fact, Flight Global says Boeing has slated its entry into service as being as soon as 2025.

The 767X cargo aircraft could enter service by 2025. Photo: Nathan Coats via Flickr

A passenger variant

Flight Global claims that sources have indicated that, alongside the new and improved freighter, the US planemaker could also be looking to develop a passenger variant too. The 767X would go some way to filling the niche that the 797 is set to occupy, but as it would be a reiteration of an existing airframe, it would not be as much of a risk as a clean sheet design would be.

The 767X would be based on the 767-400ER. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia

The 797 has been eagerly anticipated for some time, but with ongoing issues with the 737 MAX and delays to the timeline of the 777X, the proposed NMA has taken something of a back seat lately. The manufacturer is increasingly under pressure to present a solution for the middle of the market niche, particularly since Airbus’ announcement of an A321XLR, which ticks many of these boxes.

Not only would a reengineered 767X be quicker to bring to market, it would also free up Boeing resources for other projects. Projects such as a clean sheet small aircraft, to replace the popular but outdated 737.

Simple Flying reached out to Boeing for clarification. A spokesperson confirmed Flight Global’s reporting but declined to add further comment.

Déjà vu?

If you’re thinking you’ve heard of the 767X before, you wouldn’t be wrong. Boeing in fact floated the idea of a 767X back in the ‘80s, which was an odd looking bird to say the least. The 767 ‘hunchback’ was basically a 767 with the fuselage of a 757 on top, making it a two story plane like the successful 747, but somehow far uglier.

The Boeing 767X next to other versions of the 767 family. Photo: Boeing

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the original 767X never did get built. Boeing wasn’t even sure it would fly, with the rather odd aerodynamics involved. In that respect, this new idea of the 767X sounds a lot more plausible.

Do you think Boeing will make a 767X? Will it be the NMA we’ve all been waiting for? Let us know in the comments.

The details in this story first appeared on Flight Global.