The Boeing 797 – Here Are The Clues We Have So Far

Like all things at Boeing, the 797 program has had a turbulent year. Less than a year ago the airframe builder was rumored to be announcing a new airframe at the Paris Air Show and now the Boeing 797 plans have been scrapped. What do we know about the 797 and how did we get here?

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What is the future for Boeing 797 program? Photo: Getty Images

The original concept

The Boeing 797 was originally devised as a new aircraft to fill in the ‘middle of the market’ gap that airlines were contending with. This ‘gap’ is defined as aircraft that cater to the 220-270 field of passengers to a range of 5,000 nautical miles. A step up from Boeing’s 737 short-haul aircraft and below the Boeing 787 long-haul aircraft; a medium-haul aircraft, if you will.

It would also need to be a spiritual successor to the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767, both of which are no longer built (Boeing 767 freighters are still built, but no more passenger aircraft).

Boeing was actually rumored to be working on two Boeing 797 aircraft variants:

  • 797-6 will be able to seat 228-passengers and fly a range of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300km).
  • 797-7 which would seat 267-passengers and fly a range of 4,200 nautical miles (7,700km).

As you can see, the smaller one could carry fewer passengers a further range and the bigger one more passengers but to a lesser distance. The distance difference is rather irrelevant as most airlines would be operating the type under 4,000 nautical miles, but having a slighter longer-range available would be good for airlines such as Icelandair (who is looking to replace their Boeing 757s).

The original concept was also designed as a widebody aircraft. This would facilitate rapid boarding and deplaning of passengers at busy airports that required rapid turn around (think routes like Sydney to Melbourne with frequent services).

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A Boeing 797 concept photo that has been circling the internet over the last few years. Photo: Dj’s Aviation via Youtube

What happened next?

Despite lots of airlines interested in the concept, Boeing never revealed anything at the Paris Air Show.

However, their rival Airbus was less hesitant and released their extended-range Airbus A321XLR, quickly snapping up orders that may have gone for the Boeing 797. 

From here Boeing actually had much more on their plate with the Boeing 737 MAX grounding and issues with the production of the Boeing 787 that they ended up shelving existing plans for the 797. The new CEO of Boeing decided that a new white-paper concept would be needed after much consultation and analysis of the industry.

The Airbus A321XLR doesn’t fill the entire niche that Boeing wants to with the 797. Photo: Airbus

What are Boeing’s options?

From here Boeing has several options to bring an aircraft to market.

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

Part of the issue is that the cost of the new Boeing 797 design, whatever it may be, will be just as much as it costs to get the Boeing 737 MAX back in the air. Whether or not Boeing, and its shareholders, has the stomach to spend even more money on this aircraft remains to be seen.

What do you think? Which direction will Boeing go in? Let us know in the comments.

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