Boeing Still Assessing ‘797’ Business Case

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As widely anticipated, Boeing said this week that there would not be a 2019 launch of its new 797 aircraft type. Previously, there had been speculation that Boeing would announce the launch during this week’s Paris Air Show. But, ongoing problems at Boeing led it to temper expectations of a launch. and the expected delay was formally confirmed by Boeing on Monday 17th June.

Boeing 797
The proposed Boeing 797. Photo: Boeing

A report in samchui.com cites a press conference held by Boeing at the Air Show on 17 June 2019. Boeing confirmed there would be no launch of the 797 in 2019 as the business case for the aircraft was still under assessment.

Boeing are undertaking discussions with various airlines, keen to develop an aircraft that meets the needs of as many customers as possible. Prior to issues with the Boeing 737 MAX and 777X concentrating minds at Boeing HQ, there had been an expectation that the 797 would be launched at Paris this week.

The buzz around the 797

The buzz around Boeing’s new mid sized aircraft has been building since 2017 when Boeing released details of its proposed new aircraft.

The 797 aims to slot in between the 737 and 787 in Boeing’s catalog. The new aircraft will seat between 220 and 270 passengers, depending on layout, and fly up to 5,200 nautical miles.

Boeing 767
The Boeing 797 will be about the same size as the Boeing 767 and a natural successor. Photo: Boeing.

Back in 2017, CNN reported Boeing’s then vice president of airplane development, Mike Delaney, as saying that the 797’s flying costs would be up to 45% less than the older, slightly larger sized aircraft from Airbus, like its A330neo.

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There was considerable interest in the 797, with the same CNN report suggesting Boeing had talked to nearly 60 potential customers about the aircraft.

Qatar Airways, no stranger to being the first to fly new airframe types, was lining up to be Boeing’s launch customer for the 797. That announcement, also anticipated to be made in Paris this week, has also been postponed.

A new Airbus to compete against the 797

The new 797 is being designed to fill the middle market segment Boeing long thought had been “overlooked.”

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But Airbus came out guns blazing this week at the Paris Air Show, with the launch of its new mid sized aircraft type, the A321XLR. That launch has been the talk of the Air Show and sales this week have been strong.

A321XLR-01
The Airbus A321XLR will be a formidable competitor against the 797. Photo: Airbus

The A321XLR would be a direct competitor to the proposed 797. The new Airbus will carry somewhat fewer passengers – 180 to 220 – and have a slightly smaller range at 4,700 nautical miles. However, it too sits in that capacity and range niche between the 737 and 787.

A shift to the 797-7 at Boeing

Already the A321XLR has focused attention at Boeing. There were plans to launch two versions of the 797, the 797-6 and the 797-7. The 797-7 would be larger and capable of flying further than the 797-6.

Usually, Boeing launches the smaller aircraft type first, but earlier this week, and in response to the successful A321XLR launch, Boeing would be looking to launch the 7 version first in order to better compete against the new Airbus.

This may help Boeing put some clearer product differentiation between the A321XLR and its 797. The 797-7 could fly 500 nautical miles further and carry some 50 more passengers than the A321XLR. These are not insignificant numbers. 

It’s one reason why, despite recent turmoil at Boeing, the company remains confident about its future. Although Airbus seems to have captured the zeitgeist right now, Boeing expects to sell over 4,400 new aircraft over the next 20 years. It is confident about the future.

Despite delays, they reckon the 797 mid sized aircraft will feature prominently in those numbers.

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