What Happened To The Boeing 787-3?

We are all familiar with the three types of Boeing 787 Dreamliners: the nimble 787-8, the popular 787-9 and the huge 787-10. However, back during the development and initial orders of the new aircraft line, Boeing actually offered a short haul 787-3 Dreamliner.

The Boeing 787-3 Dreamliner. Photo: Wikimedia

Why did Boeing see the need for this aircraft? Who ordered it and what happened?

What was the Boeing 787-3 Dreamliner?

The Boeing 787-3 was a ‘tiny’ Dreamliner that could carry 290 to 330 passengers in a two-class configuration, up to a range of 2,500–3,050 nmi (4,630–5,650 km). It was designed to fit in between the 787-9 (capacity 290) and the 787-10 (capacity 330), but have the same length as the 787-8 (186 ft 1 in (56.72 m)).

This means it would have had quite dense seating and have a limited range compared to the other variants (each of the other 787s could fly 6,400 nmi or more). The aircraft could only carry 165 tonnes, which was a limiting factor for its range.

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Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, the 787-3 would have been the same size but smaller wings. Source: Wikimedia

It was intended to serve medium haul domestic routes, such as Chicago to New York, or more specifically, domestic routes in Japan. Routes that at the time were served by a Boeing 757 or 767. Essentially, it’s the same market that is awaiting the arrival of the Boeing 797.

What happened?

Problems started when Boeing had to delay the 787 program in 2008. In order to keep the 787-8 on schedule, Boeing pulled resources from the 787-9 and 787-3 programs. The 787-3, a specialized aircraft for the Japan market, was put on the back burner until Boeing could get the 787-8 up in the air. The delay extended out to three years with no delivery time in sight, amid problems with parts shortages, incomplete work by contractors and even redesigns.

These delays influenced Japan Airways and ANA, who had 13 and 28 787-3s on order respectively, to switch to the more popular 787-8 long range variant.

An ANA 787 Dreamliner Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“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.

With no orders for the 787-3 on the books, Boeing decided to outright scrap the jet and use its resources to complete the 787 long-haul range.

“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.

What would aviation be like with the 787-3?

If the short-haul 787-3 had been successful… how would that have changed the aviation landscape?

For one, there would be no 797. The 787-3 would fit the role perfectly and with ease. Its fuel efficiency would have been a boon for airlines and it would have become a natural successor to the 757 and 767. Additionally, Boeing would not have built an 797 as it may have cannibalized sales of the 787-3.

We might have even seen Airbus come into the market with their own version, the A350-800. A short haul A350 to compete with the 787-3 and try and coax those sales away.

But we should not forget that the 787-3 didn’t sell outside of Japan, and it would have been a long uphill battle for the American aerospace manufacturer to get orders anywhere else.

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

2 comments
  1. If there was and is a market for a 787-3, Boeing would seem to have the plans to fill it quite well with the 797.

  2. Boeing should take the technology used on the 787 and appliy it to the 797. It is a no – brainer and we will have a narrow body, twin aisle 787-3 of sorts. The 757 must be replaced by something similar, yet more advanced. Just like the 757 replaced the 727 -200 yet didn’t look like it at all. They did share the body dimensions and are close in length, but thats it for similarities. And as the 757 got a new nose, so the 797 must get a new nose as well.

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