Will The Boeing 797 Be Delayed Due To 737 MAX Issues?

The past week has been a tough one for Boeing. At the start of the week, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, tragically crashed on departure from Addis Ababa. This led to the grounding of the world’s entire fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The Boeing 797 is widely anticipated to be launched later this year, following interest from the CEO of Delta. While the project is yet to be officially launched, Simple Flying believes this could be earmarked for this year’s Paris Air Show. We have already seen the public rollout out of the Boeing 777X delayed as a result of this week’s events.

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What the B797 could look like. Source: Youtube DJ’s Aviation.

New middle market option

The new Boeing 797 is intended to be a middle of the range jet that sits between the short haul Boeing 737 and the long haul 747s, 777s, and 787s. Indeed, it is intended to replace the Boeing 757 and 767. Production of the 757 ended in 2004, while the 767 is still in production.

These aircraft are, however, starting to age. Take United Airlines for example. They operate both the Boeing 757 and 767. The average age of a United 757 is 21 years, while for their 767s this stands at 21.6 years. The airline currently operates 76 757s and 52 767s.

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Delta may use the 797 to replace their 767 aircraft. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia

Similar to an Apple iPhone release, it is likely that until the Boeing 797 project is officially announced, details will be sketchy and unverified. It is currently thought that Boeing will initially produce two models of the B797. One would likely be called the B797-6 and will be designed to carry 228 passengers a distance 4500 nmi. This will be followed by the B797-7, designed to carry 267 passengers, however, it would only have a range of 4,100 nmi.

Will the program be delayed?

The rollout of Boeing’s 777X was delayed out of respect following the Ethiopian Airlines accident. Now that all of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are grounded, will the 797 program be delayed also? Given all the bad press Boeing has received this week, it may be a good idea to delay the 797 until the 737’s issues have been ironed out.

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The 797 is also expected to replace the 757. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The 797 is, however, a completely different aircraft to the 737 MAX. There shouldn’t be any delay to the time frame required to deliver the aircraft as completely different teams are working on the two projects. It’s also an awfully long time until the 797 program is due to be completed. As such, any 737 issues stand a good chance of being resolved by the time it rolls out of the hangar.

When do you think Boeing will announce the 797? Let us know in the comments down below!

17 comments
  1. Boeing might have to skip the NMA and launch an NSA instead.
    With the company facing an existential crisis with the grounding of the MAX — a grounding that can last a lot longer than most people seem to be expecting. In a worst case scenario, the 737 MAX could be grounded permanently outside of the U.S.

    Why?

    First, Boeing effectively self certified the MAX with the blessing of the FAA. Thanks to the actions — or rather, in-actions — by Boeing’s top management during the last couple of days, they have managed to cement their reputation as a company that shamefully puts money and corporate interests above safety.

    2nd, the FAA is a joke. The widely held idea in the U.S.-centric media that the FAA is the gold standard of aviation regulatory agencies, is another of those misplaced beliefs in American primacy based on history rather than current reality. The fact of the matter is that the FAA have embarrassed themselves in front of the whole world. Even if the FAA were to lift the grounding by June, or earlier, it’s not certain that regulatory agencies worldwide would want to follow suit.

    3rd, Boeing have got so used to the FAA’s word being accepted worldwide that it’s going to come as a complete shock to them that it now seemingly is not.

    4th, Due to the FAA’s loss of influence, Boeing is going to have to engage directly with the world’s regulators themselves. It’s far from certain that any aviation regulator will approve a flawed, half century old design operating in their air space, irrespective of MCAS. Grandfathered certification doesn’t get carried over to a foreign regulatory body.

    5th, points 1-4 would leave the 737 MAX programme dead in the water.

    Hence, launching a NSA — sooner rather than later — might be a matter of survival for the Boeing company.

      1. Hey There Mark,

        I received no compensation from Airbus, Boeing, or any other third party to write this article.

        Best,
        Tom

      2. @Mark Caporelli

        Your posting is just another example of the dumbing-down of America.

        “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

        https://www2.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/risk.html

        Now, instead of dumbing-down any discussion about the MAX — that typically involves the diminishment of critical thought — why don’t we take a look at the design spec for the MAX. Isn’t likely that during the design phase for the MAX, Boeing didn’t fully take into account the changed aerodynamic behaviour of relocating the engines. Isn’t it possible that the problem was only detected after initial test flying of the MAX had been completed. Now, as time runs out, a redesign of the aircraft is now impossible and so a software patch is called for to get better stall protection. Of course, the MAX is not a Fly-By-Wire (FBW) aircraft, and therefore the triple redundancy and voting concept that is standard for FBW airliners like the A320, A330, A350, A380, 777 and 787, is neither required nor followed.

        In contrast to the triple redundant FBW airliners, the MCAS system on the MAX takes input from only one Angle-of-Attack (AoA) sensor. Hence, it’s a single-point failure system. If Boeing believe that they can fix what is clearly a hardware/sensor issue with a MCAS software, the MAX will very likely experience more crashes. The root cause of two accidents appears clearly to be a hardware issue, the software is secondary. Now, as all software engineers know, patches sometimes backfire because they have not been designed with the same care as the original system. Another Seattle resident, Bill Gates, should know all about that.

        Finally, it’s well known within Boeing that they never wanted to do the MAX — work had been ongoing on a 737 replacement aircraft for years (NSA). If the 787 hadn’t been botched so badly, there is a good chance the 737 replacement would have been launched prior to the A320neo.

        1. While you make some valid points, your conclusions are crazy such as suggesting that Boeing could not computer model the MAX before flight tests or that, as you say in your first post the entire MAX program is dead.
          Yes there are problems with MAX, and yes Boeing’s board did rush it in response to NEO, but there will be a software fix next month and the MAX program will resume. For no other reason than Airbus does not have enough capacity to meet global demand. Even Boeing and Airbus together are not making enough small planes to meet demand.
          The MAX issues will accelerate NMA since it will use the same platform as the NSA as you call it as the NSA will be NMA with a single aisle cabin

          1. @ Mark Caporelli

            Well, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology, Boeing only discovered during flight testing of the MAX a problem that made the airplane difficult to handle when its speed dropped to a point where it was in danger of triggering an aerodynamic stall, and a loss of control that could lead to a crash. The report by AW&ST suggested that in order to mitigate the problem Boeing introduced a new system to the flight controls — a system called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

            https://aviationweek.com/commercial-aviation/lion-air-probe-expands-737-max-design-and-pilot-training

            As for a possible premature ending of the MAX programme; If European, Japanese, Chinese (etc) regulatory authorities won’t accept a patched up MAX, it’s effectively dead. Deliveries to non-US customers would not resume.

            True, Airbus can’t meet the demand today. However, there’s no reason to believe that Airbus couldn’t continue to significantly ramp up single-aisle production (i.e. A220 and A32Xneo). Add the additional odd orders for C919s and MC-21s, and you’d have a situation half a decade hence where most, if not all of the world demand for single aisle aircraft would be met.

          2. The capacity question is an interesting one. Boeing and Airbus share a lot of suppliers in common. The same people who make landing gear and APUs for the 737 program make APUs and landing gear for the A320 program. If one program is suffering or scaling down, then there is immediate capacity to supply the other manufacturer and support them to ramp up. i.e. the only things that wont easily be rampable, are the inhouse components and processes. The outsourced subassembly manufacturing capacity is already there for Airbus if Boeing were to ramp down.

      3. I love it when some nitwit tosses out the “old, outdated, 90 years old design” BS regarding the 737, or 747. There is no logic to the claim, all airliners are either aluminum or composite tubes, with one pointy end and one end with a tail. Hence all airliners must be old, outdated technology. It’s not as if the maker of generic airliners is forging ahead with flying triangles or wedges powered by reverse gravity.

        1. “all airliners are … with one pointy end and one end with a tail”

          That’s one of the least observant things I have read in 30 years. The pointy end of an airliner IS the tail. Airliners are rounded and blunt at the front and tapered and streamlined at the rear. Feel free to take a look if you done believe me. The sharper edge of a wing is the back. Airliners and all of their aerodynamic surfaces are much much more streamlined at the “back end” than at the “front end”. Any pointy end of an airliner is its rear.

  2. @Mark @Karl This is a great discussion of some critical issues. I agree with the points & arguments by Karl, that the 737 MAX issue provides ample evidence that the FAA is no longer the leader or “gold standard” for aviation certification and regulation. Which is a sad thing to say. When U.S. federal agencies become more concerned with political (and economic) issues than the actual safety of the flying public, we all have reasons to be concerned. This isn’t to say China wasn’t playing their own political card by being the first to ground the 737 MAX, but that the U.S. and FAA was the very last to do so is a sorry indictment.

    I would definitely be concerned for Boeing in this matter. Boeing has had a good reputation for building reliable airliners where final control was under the authority of its pilots (rather than reliance on computers). If, as Karl states, MCAS was Boeing’s solution using software to patch (737) instability problems caused by its relocated engines, how can anyone have 100% confidence in a to-be-released patch of the MCAS patch?

    As both you guys point out, Boeing could soon have not one, but two holes in their product line if airlines lose faith in the 737 MAX… the midsize *and* small segments. I doubt it means the complete death of the 737 MAX, but wouldn’t surprise me if airlines cancel a lot of orders. As big as Boeing is, it’s hard to see it having the capital and engineering/manufacturing resources to develop both the NMA and NSA at the same time. That would be a serious dilemma, that Airbus would surely take advantage of. Just when it seemed Airbus was the one with the black eye regarding their closure of the A380 program…

    Glad to have discovered this site, the pic above is the first rendering I’ve seen of the NMA/797.

  3. Thanks for the insightful comments, guys. I can’t contribute to the conversation other than I enjoy reading Tom’s articles and the readers’ comments.

  4. @Karl @Mark @Luke
    Thank you for your interesting comments!
    Different views but valid arguments. All of you.
    I was initially surprised by Karl’s comment and pessimistic approach.
    But he made a major point: the biggest casualty is the FAA reputation.
    As things develop, we all understand that Boeing did the best they could do when confronted to a major design flaw. Now, as it appears, the FAA just left Boeing self-certify the plane… worrying. A bit like a judge leaving the sentence up to your own lawyer….!
    This could be devastating to the US aircraft industry, far beyond the MAX.
    If the FAA credibility is questioned, there is a tremendous threat looming:
    Are the ETOPS certifications from the FAA reliable?
    As a veteran of this industry, I remember the time when the market was clearly organised between single aisle – twin engine short to medium range aircraft and double aisle – 4 engines long haul aircraft. And I remember as well how everybody got stunned when the FAA certified the wonderful GE90 to an ETOPS 270… allowing the large capacity twin engine aircraft to wipe out the 4 engines (A340, B747, A380).
    I’m not saying that the ETOPS certification of modern engines has been rigged, but if FAA certification procedures are in doubt, it could be investigated and devastating…

    If we mitigate Karl’s comment with Mark’s remarks, we can consider that Boeing will struggle in the single aisle market for the next few years. However they seem to be bound to dominate the larger capacity aircraft market with their successful 777 family.
    Unless the twin engine ETOPS is questioned. That would be the real earthquake. That would really put the whole industry into shambles (Boeing first but also Airbus with the A350… )

    Of course, I’m aware that it’s pure speculation. But the ETOPS certification has been so instrumental in reshaping the world aircraft market, that any suspicion about its validity and relevance may lead to dire consequences.

    Boeing is already trailing in the single aisle market, but leading in the double aisle one. Any trouble in this high revenue market is life threatening.
    But I don’t think that anybody has any interest in such an investigation. So, probably, it won’t happen.

  5. I made a comment after a previous article on the causes for the crashes of the 737 MAX. I am not an engineer but I have more than 35 years experience on aircraft avionics systems, the most recent ones are the Bombardier CRJ series and other company aircraft. In the comment I discussed EICAS (engine indicating crew alerting system), Caution (yellow)and Failure (red) annunciations, data buses and DCU (data concentration units). The CRJs have either 2 or three DCUs two are active and one is a spare. The systems will function if only one is operational. The CRJ was approved by the certifying agencies around 2004. I found out later the 737 Max has few or none of the a fore mentioned units and that the avionics date back to the 60s with newer displays in the cockpit. I assumed that since the 737 Max was certified in 2017 or 2018 it would include caution or failure warnings for the air data computers and AOA (angle of attack) sensors. You know what the saying is for “ASSUME” so I apologize to Simple Flying for not publishing my comment.

    On the comments

    I agree 100% with Karl’s comments. It displays pertinent knowledge about the aircraft and other areas and he expresses himself better than I do. I think he was probably educated outside of the U.S. I will add supporting statements at the end of my comments.
    Mark’s first comment shows that if it was made in the U.S. especially by Boeing it must be the best or that Karl is probably a paid spy or and agent of Airbus. In Mark’s second comment , while showing limited mechanical or avionics knowledge of aircraft, he seems to soften his first statement somewhat but he thinks that it is only a software problem. I think the only solution would be for Boeing to reposition the engines in the original locations and install miniature landing gears under them to push the wings up when the aircraft are on the ground. That would eliminate the aerodynamic problem, reduce the pitch-up stall problem and eliminate the need for the MCAS system. ( Just kidding, maybe?) I will discuss the capacity problem in my comments.

    Art’s does not rate a reply, it is like water-bombing Notre Dame.

    I like and agree with Luke’s comments. I also think that the Boeing reputation used to be a good one. Unfortunately they got caught with their pants down when the 320 NEO came out. It already had more modern avionics and higher wings so it did not need major changes. Boeing decided to cut corners to try to compete with its 737 MA X. The pilots and business people decide when purchasing aircraft so the new displays in the cockpit were very impressive for them. The engineers probably did not have their word to say in the decisions. That is why the large number of orders.

    Jean-Paul’s intelligent comments are typically French. I know because I am a cousin. He does digress correctly about the topic. Most of his content is about ETOPS. I don’t agree that Boeing did the best they could. Their solutions to save time and money cost the lives of 350 persons. They built an aircraft that had aerodynamic problems and designed a band-aid solution to help correct this problem. To make it even worse they took the output from a single sensor that was not equipped with a comparator warning to control the MCAS system. The software even seemed to be able to override the pilot’s inputs. I don’t know what percentage of the blame is the responsibility of the FAA.

    My thoughts

    I have inserted some comments already but here are some more not in any specific order.
    The AOA sensors are simple usually very reliable sensors. They are sometimes subject to icing when a failure occurs but in both of the accidents icing can probably be eliminated. In modern aircraft the outputs are fed to a comparator monitor and if there is an excessive difference between them a yellow annunciator alerts the pilots. There are usually comparator warnings for many other important systems. In case of a failure a red annunciator appears. In the first accident the problem in the previous flight was blamed on the failure of the first AOA sensor. In the accident flight, the problem was blamed on the new AOA sensor. It does not make “sense” that two AOA sensors would fail on consecutive flights. In both accidents the problem started right after take-off. The air-speed was low and the engine power was near maximum, 94% in the second accident. The new engine position near the fuselage and partly above the wing might modify the airflow over the AOA sensors in the downward direction, make it seem like the nose of the aircraft is pointing-up enough degrees to indicate a possible stall. I don’t know if there was a stall warning sound or a stick shaker prior to the crashes but I think the MCAS system would jump into action. It seems to me like as long as the engines are near max power this condition for the downward position of the AOA sensor would remain constant. This is not my area of expertise but I wonder if this was checked during certification.

    Mark says there is not enough capacity to build airplanes to replace the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft. Russia has 2 models of the same size as the Max 8 and Max 9 that use American avionics and engines. They are in the process of certifying those aircraft. The Chinese also have two similar models that are being certified. Bombardier has the A220-300 that has a similar range but carry less passengers. It could be used on thinner routes. Air Baltic is using it to replace its 737s and has scheduled flights of 7 hours to Dubai. Bombardier has the plans for a CS-500 that could be certified in a couple of years but the current CEO has transferred the program to Airbus as a gift. I think the passenger range is from 150 to 165. I don’t know it it includes the documentation and plans for the CS-500 but Airbus will probably kill this design as it would be a better and more modern aircraft than their A320. Airbus is already stealing orders from the A-220 and replacing them with A320s and I am not aware of any new sales. I wonder if CEO Bellemare made an honest mistake when he transferred the program or he had other incitements. If the Bombardier CS-500 wasn’t part of the gift to Airbus, maybe Boeing could buy it from them and have this plane flying in around 2 years. Bombardier had discussions with Boeing before they transferred the program to Airbus but they refused. I own Bombardier shares so my bias may show in some of the the comments.

  6. since the MD infection at boeing board level.. it seems the bottomline is more important than engineering.
    me I dont regard the fix on the 747-8 tail tank induced flutter (or low freq oscillation) as fixed but patched.
    similiarly I dont think a software patch will fix the problem but patch it.
    I propose fixing the problem first.
    1. shim the engine mount down 1.5 to 6 degrees relative to forward/aft wingline.. This will alleviate pitch-up due to the thrust line being ahead of the wing. side effect will be more wing flying less engine thrust up. perhaps even a 5% gain in economy.
    2. one button shut off for system.
    3. software should only provide stick shake not trim attitude.
    4.Antiquated tech AoA vanes are notorious for getting fouled. having 2 which can give wildly different readings is bit stupid.. they should never be averaged. Only one will be correct.
    5. availability of IN, GPS, tilt meters and pressure meters all of which we find in tablets phones and watches..duh.. these should be integrated into the AoA data.
    A ring of pressure sensors around the circumference of the fuselage will make sense of 2 AoA vanes data. allied to IN GPS tilt data. the computer will have a chance.
    Might even be able to give it back access to the controls.
    Finally and with sadness I might note that the pitchup problem is actually manually manageable by the most powerful computer on the plane…the human brain.

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