Why Boeing Never Built The 787-3


Boeing created plans for a small Dreamliner called the 787-3. It would have been perfect for busy domestic routes and would have filled in the role of the 767. What happened to this aircraft? Let’s explore.

Boeing 787-8. Photo: Dave Sizer via Wikimedia

What was the Boeing 787-3?

The Boeing 787-3 was a project headlined by Boeing to answer the middle of the market problem. This was a market that needed aircraft bigger than the 737 or A320, seating around 250-270 passengers, with a range of around 5,000 nautical miles.

Boeing planned the 787-3 to carry 290 to 330 passengers in a two-class configuration. It was essentially the same size as a 787-8 that could carry slightly more passengers as a 787-9 (max 290 passengers). However, its range would not have been able to match the other 787s distance of 6,400 nautical miles – it could only fly 3,050 nautical miles (5,650 km).

The plane would have been fitted with very dense seating and limited to a maximum take-off weight of only 165 tonnes, reducing the amount of fuel it could carry.

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Japan Airlines order the 787-3. Photo: byeangel via Flickr.

What happened to the Boeing 787-3?

The Boeing 787-3 concept was a winner in Japan, with both Japan Airlines and ANA ordering the type (13 and 28 orders respectively). However, during the development of the 787 program in 2008, Boeing decided to focus on the long-range 787-8 and pull engineers away from the 787-3.


Because the delay extended out for three years without a delivery date confirmed, the two customers for the type decided to switch to the same sized (although less passenger capacity) 787-8. After all, now the aircraft could fly further and be more flexible for airline route planning.

“ANA’s primary business reason for adjusting their 787 model selection is focused around aircraft availability to support their fleet plan – the 787-8 is available sooner for delivery than the 787-3 would be, “Boeing statement to Flight Global.

So, without any orders for the 787-3, Boeing terminated the type.

“As a result, there are no longer any 787-3 orders in the backlog. Going forward, we’ll continue to assess the market viability of the 787-3,” Boeing continued in the same statement.


Could it make a comeback?

Today, Boeing still has not announced an aircraft best suited for the middle of the market, and with the Boeing 737 MAX even not back in the sky, airlines have been left without many options to fill in this market void.

Boeing has recently begun talks about bringing back a 767X or a Boeing 757 Plus to fill the market, which would be perfectly suited by a 787-3. The 787 is still under production, and its more likely that Boeing will make some adjustments to bring a 787-3 to market rather than creating a new aircraft from scratch.

The Boeing 787-3 could be the solution to the middle of the market. Photo: Boeing Newsroom

In a recent article, Simple Flying also highlighted a very relevant quote by CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, to Airline Ratings in which he said that the NMA should be based on this plane.

“787-3 with a new lighter wing and derated engines would be an excellent platform.”

What do you think? Will the 787-3 make a comeback? Let us know in the comments.