Could The Boeing 787-3 Become The 797/NMA?

Recently we discussed how Boeing could bring to market a replacement for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX and mothballed 797 in the form of a Boeing 787X. However, Boeing has actually designed the 787X before… the Boeing 787-3.

Boeing 787-3
Boeing could bring back plans for the Boeing 787-3 instead of the 797. Photo: Getty

What is the Boeing 787-3?

The Boeing 787-3 was initially conceived as a ‘short haul’ Boeing 787 variant.

The design has the following specifications:

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  • The Boeing 787-3 could carry 290 to 330 passengers in a two-class configuration, up to a range of 2,500–3,050 nautical miles (4,630–5,650 km).

A common misconception is that it was the smallest of the Boeing 787s, but in fact, was the same size as the 787-8 (186 feet or 56.7 meters) but with the same capacity as the 787-10 (330 passengers).

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Because of the passenger density and weight, the aircraft would have a limited range and would not be able to fly very far. The Boeing 787-9 can fly 7,635 nautical miles (14,140 km), which is almost three times further than the 787-3.

The aircraft project was delayed due to production issues with the first-in-line 787-8. Japan Airlines and ANA, who had 13 and 28 787-3s each on order respectively, moved their order to the 787-8 type.

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“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.

“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.

And thus the aircraft concept has been left on a shelf… until now.

qantas-tokyo-haneda
ANA was one of the original airlines to order the Boeing 787-3. Photo: Toshi Aoki via Wikimedia Commons.

Why would the Boeing 787-3 work for Boeing?

Now that Boeing has moved aside plans for a middle-of-the-market filler Boeing 797, they are left with an opportunity to approach the market with a different concept. One that meets that demand for a short- to medium-haul airliner with 220-270 seats.

Currently, this role is catered to by Boeing 757s and 767s, but with types these no longer in production (unless Boeing makes a 757X or 767X) airlines are starting to worry that they won’t be able to find a replacement.

The Boeing 787-3 concept, if dusted off, would easily fill in that role. Boeing already has the advantage of having two major Boeing 787 production lines in operation and a qualified ‘reliable’ Dreamliner brand (engine/battery issues notwithstanding).

Air Canada Boeing 787
The Boeing 787-3 would be a good replacement for the 757 and 767, Photo: Air Canada

In fact, the Boeing 787-3 would very much be a natural addition to the product range much like Airbus does with the Airbus A321XLR program (filling a market need with an existing airframe).

“What would happen if Boeing were to dust off that thing we called a 787-3, let’s tweak it, let’s take some weight out, let’s do some clever stuff with it, and maybe that’s our NMA.” said Addison Schonland, founder and partner of AirInsight Research, to Flight Global.

Speaking of the Airbus A321XLR, Boeing may have to redesign the 787-3 to better compete against this rival type. As the single-aisle aircraft is cheaper to buy and operate, as well as having a better range, Boeing will need to have a compelling sales proposition to prove how the 787-3 is better.

By 2043… the market for this twin-aisled middle-market airplane will be 2,400 airplanes,” Schonland added to his interview with Flight Global. “That’s a respectable number and it’s worth chasing.”

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

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Frank

Shrinks never seem to work out, as well as stretches. Too heavy, over-engineered, over powered, too expensive. Might as well just build the 767X, composite as much as possible and add new engines. Anything else gets too costly when airlines can make do with the A321XLR at a cheaper price.

Nancy Pelosi's Bartender

All this may be true but I think from a cost perspective the 787-3 would be much much cheaper to produce since it was already in the plans before and all the tooling is there already. Sure some things would need to be modified but all in all much cheaper than a clean sheet. I know people keep clambering clean sheet clean sheet clean sheet blah blah but they are not the ones writing the checks.

Armand2REP

It might be cheaper to set up production but it will still cost the same as the Dreamliner. It won’t be competing against the A321XLR.

Andy

Agreed. Well proven product and would require far less time to tool up.the discussion…

Victor

Frank, the article states that the -3 would neither be a shrink nor a stretch – same fuselage dimensions.

As for the 767x, sounds like another max trying to put new engines on a really old airframe. No thanks

TonytTDK

Without a lot of work, the 787 will always be too heavy….. There’s no way around it. The structural frames are all bigger than need be, the landing-gear’s bigger, etc, etc, etc. Everything would need paring-down & it’ll still be heavier than a comparative A321Neo.! Plus, it’s going to be a wide-body, so aerodynamically it’ll be less efficient than a single-aisle….. AND unless airports start boarding & alighting on both sides of the aircraft, being a twin-aisle doesn’t stop there being a bottleneck at the one entrance door. All that said, it might be Boeings’ best option.? If they’re really… Read more »

High Mile Club

Would there really be a point in making the 767X when the 787 already exists? I mean, there’s nothing the new 767 could do that the 787 couldn’t. Not to mention, previous articles noted the size being based on the 767-400, which itself is close to the size of a 777-200. Cheaper to make, but I doubt anyone would really take it.

Nationalslugger15

You could make a 767x and maybe a 757x they were both great planes! They should ditch the 787-3 plans. That’s my opinion.

Barbara Seced

It has already been ditched and it’s not coming back.

janj

787-3 if they are launching will be a direct competitor to A330-300 Regional… This would be a good option putting a hi-cap and de-rated engine but will they be able to give massive discounts with this option to lure in potential customers will be the next big question. Again this can be the NMA but will rake in enough customers and convince them of the swoop 787-3 instead of the far more cheaper alternative A321-XLR.

Gerry S

Reinstate the B797 program is what I say. It was already in the works. Give us a TRUE replacement for B737 and a competitor to A320 et al. Single aisle, composite body and wings, and A220 type interior. This is the way to go.

Anonymous

The 787-3 lost orders because it was inefficient from its smaller wings. It burned as much fuel as an A330.

Barbara Seced

The 787-3 is another example of an aircraft offered to the Japanese to lure them into a program. The other example was the 7J7, for those who remember it.

Alex

I think Airbus showed that going after this market with an expensive twin aisle plane (a330 800) didn’t work, but they showed that a cheaper single aisle (a321) jet sells well. The original Boeing NMA was supposed to be twin aise but at the same price as a single aisle. If they could really deliver on this then that is a massive win for customers as they will get more space in the twin aisle, but at much lower prices. I understand that the 787 is a relatively expensive plane to purchase, this means it is probably expensive to build.… Read more »

Gerry S

You said it Alex. Agree with your last paragraph.

EDUARDO MEJIA

Boeing abandoned completely the regional and commuter companies that need as well new projects for their type of operations as the 19 30 50 and 70 passengers. How Boeing does not support this small but significant part of the aviation industry and is a shame because this market is huge. I have dreamed a 737 short scale model with a capacity of 19 passengers for those commuters that do not have that much budget to include a flight attendant as part of the crew but with a reliable airplane that satisfy the community needs.

Paul F.

Eduardo, I’m not sure about the economics of a 19 seat jet, but assume we are looking at a very different market segment. Also, as I understand it, excluding for air service with planes under 20 passenger capacity, airlines in the U.S. are required to have 1 flight attendant per 50 passengers. For the 50 to 70 passenger capacity, the Embraers and CRJs are probably sufficient enough and Boeing wouldn’t find a very profitable niche. But, of course that could change but would proabably require significant changes in Boeing’s outlook and operations. For many of the communities served by the… Read more »

David

Seems to me not the best idea to modify older designs to meet either future market trends or competition. It is a proven bad idea!! Such short cuts have properly screwed Boeing. Moving engines and stretching fuselages doesn’t cut it and software can’t change a C of G.

brettio

key to the argument was slot size for parking. 757 and 767-200 38-48m (larger 767 62m) simplest option would be to put a folding wing tip on the existing wing.(short approval time?) put the already designed 52m wing on(longer approval time?) with or without folding tip. run full wing plane partly fueled for lower-takeoff weight normal wing plane can be dual role then. next option take 2.5m-3.5m out of the fuselage fore and aft of the wing. so instant 787-3. 787-2 cross-type rating. with folding wing. or 52m wing.with or without folding tip. the main problem with the 52m wing… Read more »