Boeing 797 Update – When Will The Plane Launch?

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The Boeing 797 has been a frequent source of speculation for the last few years. When will it launch? Is that even what it will be called? Visit Boeing’s website and you won’t see it a single mention of the plane. Enter ‘797’ into the website’s search field and you’ll get a results that mostly contain department phone numbers that have 797 in them.

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

However, search NMA and you’ll find that Mark Jenks is the vice president of the New Mid-Market Airplane (NMA) program. Of course, based on the naming pattern of the last few decades, it makes sense this new mysterious ‘NMA’ would be called 797. But this just underlines the fact that all we really have are rumors and speculation.

Airbus A321LR
Airbus launched the A321LR on 13 January 2015 Photo: Wikimedia

We know that Boeing needs to continuously strive to stay ahead of the competition. We also know that a clear gap exists between the largest 737 and smallest 787. Not to mention it’s been almost eight years since the 787 entered into service. So the question remains: When will this plane launch?

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Engine sourcing news

Once rumored to be announced at the 2019 Paris Air Show, we now know that the program has suffered some recent setbacks. One of these was the withdrawal of Rolls-Royce from the engine competition for the new plane. This leaves two companies—Pratt & Whitney and CFM—still in competition to propel the new model.

“Delivering on our promises to customers is vital to us and we do not want to promise to support Boeing’s new platform if we do not have every confidence that we can deliver to their schedule.” said Chris Cholerton, President of Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce engine
A Rolls-Royce engine being tested. Photo: Air Force Materiel Command

Disagreements within the company

Scott Hamilton of Leeham News writes a little more extensively on this topic based on his access to exclusive sources. To summarize, doubts remain among certain Boeing Executives on the actual need for an entirely new model. Furthermore, significant concerns exist over appropriate and realistic pricing as well. Hamilton casts more doubt after speaking with a former Boeing employee:

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“Even within Boeing, I hear doubts about the market demand and whether the program will be launched. One pessimist who recently left Boeing calls the launch a 50-50 proposition”

A rebranding opportunity?

Maybe President Donald Trump was on to something when he suggested that the 737 MAX should be renamed. The model has received so much negative publicity that maybe expediting and tweaking the NMA/797 to overlap with the 737’s capacity is the best way to publicly move forward from the two catastrophic crashes of the same type of aircraft. With so many anxious flyers now suddenly aware of what model plane they are boarding, maybe a smaller 797 could come a little sooner? Realistically though, by the time this new plane enters into service one would hope negative 737 MAX news will be old and forgotten.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we still have no idea when the 797 will be officially announced, though recent rumors of a 2019 Paris Air Show announcement seem less and less likely. And if the above sources are to be believed, there is perhaps some chance that the program will be scrapped if it doesn’t make financial sense to Boeing.

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