Boeing 797 Update – When Will The Plane Launch?

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?

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.

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“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:

“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.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let us know!

9 comments
  1. It would be so exciting for this to come to fruition!!

    But at the same, Boeing needs to focus on the Max issues and the regaining consumer confidence. I’m expecting United to place an order for 787-8 to replace their aging 757-300s and 767s.

    It would be great for United to make their transcon service exclusively 787s.

    Do you think that United will keep their a-350 order? They should just place an order for more 787-9s. Seems like they love that plane and just introduced another service on it to Cape Town

  2. Boeing are still trying to recoup 30 billion dollars of development / grounding costs for the 787, and they now have the (very substantial) additional costs of the 737 MAX grounding to contend with. Add to that the possibility that certification of the 777X will be delayed, and one starts to see a situation in which Boeing probably has reduced appetite for another new program launch…especially one as iffy as the 797…

  3. I don’t know why people would find it uncomfortable. We used to fly the B707 across the Atlantic and Sydney to Europe all the time. It was quite comfortable. Our aircraft was faster than the B757/B767/A321 and “Economy” meant 38 inch seat pitch instead of 32 inches. B707-320B flew in 1962 and had a range of 5750 nm.

    1. Good point. But there were no widebodies back then, so there wasn’t a choice. Nowadays there is a choice. There’s just something more comfortable and substantial about widebodies. That being said, most (semi-)transcon flights in the US are on narrowbodies, and people “survive” that just fine…

  4. A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit NW USA and scheduled a visit to Everett to go on the Boeing Factory Tour. The tour guide explained that Boeing’s strategy was based on a belief in the ‘point-to-point’ market and that ‘hub-and-spoke’ wasn’t how people would want to fly in the near future. So the 747 doing the key, long distant routes with small ‘planes dispersing the wide body’s contents to regional final destinations would be superseded by people flying on smaller aircraft with longer ranges, from regional to regional, direct. At the time, this seemed to me like a job for the 757 – small enough to work with the lower passenger numbers at regional level, but range-y enough to get them US to Western Europe, trans America or Europe to Middle East (and on a bit more) in the other direction. Even then, some time ago now, with the 757 no longer made, it seemed like a replacement was vital. The Boeing answer however, then, (to me as a visitor) was that the largest, most stretched and extended 737s would be capable of that need. Late to that gap the Airbus 321LR appeared to be eating their breakfast, but I’m not entirely sure that even Airbus’ solution has really filled the hole the 757 has left behind. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with something at the limit of its range flying a regular, scheduled, route. Where’s the diversionary, delay, emergency fuel capacity headspace ? We still fly across the Atlantic (and longer trans-America) routes with 75s and I understand United is about to embark on ‘another’ 757 refurb programme. While bringing a new model to market is a huge mountain for a maker to climb nowadays, some folk somewhere must be marking out the gap filler between 73 and 78 otherwise there’ll be routes where the right balance between demand, price and expectation just won’t work out. And maybe this is the obstacle that’s hampered many low-cost carriers in their desire to ‘crack’ the longer haul routes ? As a big 757 fan I’m just baffled that its replacement is still up for question !!

    1. All 757 operators should order A321LR or proposed A321XLR instead because they are no longer the “ScareBus” of the past.
      With recent incident grounding of Boeing jets, 787 battery problem and 737 Max software problem that lead to two crashes, new Boeing model plane problem is the norm, I am hesitate to get on to a new Boeing jet.
      In the past the name Boeing stood for well designed and safety of their aircraft, what had happened to a great company where their name mean trust, has Boeing management put profit and competition above safety?

      1. Yes and No Rob. (In my view anyway !). Agree 737 Max problems are concerning and RR engine issues in the 787’s has probably surpassed the battery issue – although fire on a ‘craft is indeed extremely frightening. Aircraft are way, way safer than even 20 years ago. Boeing and Airbus are going to slug it out year-by-year, model-by-model until, if ever, some serious competition enters the mid to large passenger plane arena, for some time to come. I don’t know enough about profit v economy v safety, but I’d say that safety does still trump issues at design and development levels. Probably the next big challenge will be environmental, but again, latest ‘planes have come a long way, in fairly short time. The thing about the mid-size/797 in some ways relates to not just hub v regional as I said before, but also whether low-cost airlines extend their routes. A large operation with several route tiers can afford to do some hub and connect filling larger ‘planes on shorter routes because passengers will prefer the security of one ticket to their destination. Flying say London to Houston with BA and then Houston to LA with SouthWest (hey. just a random route, don’t know if this is even possible) is likely to mean two separate tickets. If the first flight lands after the next connection’s gone you’ve more of a fight getting to your destination than if it had all been with American (perhaps). But then, American, knowing that say JFK to LAS can be a busy route at times could put a mid-size on it if necessary because they know they’ll use that larger ‘plane of another, longer route at other times. Once the low costs start looking further afield (Jet Blue have ‘talked’ about JFK to LGW across the Atlantic for instance) then the Mid size plane market could get much more interesting for the manufacturers.

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