What’s After The Boeing 797?

It’s interesting to look at current trends and think about where we may be 20 years from now. Of course, half the fun is the unpredictability of the industry and emerging technologies. Once thought to be the future of aviation, who could have guessed that the Airbus A380 would fail in the way that it has? Same with the Concorde and supersonic travel. In this article we’ll look further into the future and take some educated guesses about what could follow the Boeing 797.

It’s anyone’s guess what the airplanes of the future will look like  Photo: Pixabay, LeeRosario

Aside from negative press surrounding production, Boeing has made quite a big splash in the commercial aviation world with its 787 Dreamliner.  Entering service in 2011, the integration of new technologies for advancements in passenger comfort and fuel efficiency has left us wanting more ever since.

An ANA 787 Dreamliner Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the 797

At this time we are all anxiously awaiting an official announcement about the next new model of Boeing aircraft. This New Midsize Airplane (NMA) is likely to have the name 797 and it’s still anyone’s guess when we will get more information. However, Boeing have said that the 737 MAX crisis will not delay the development of the 797.

We still don’t know what the 797 will really look like Photo: YouTube DJ’s Aviation

I think the key feature that will always dominate the future aircraft discussion is fuel economics. With one of the largest expenses in the industry being fuel, airlines rise and collapse with the price of it. Therefore, any aircraft designed beyond the 797 will most certainly be lightweight with advanced engines. Composite materials are a must!

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To that end, several ideas have been thrown out into the world:

Windowless planes?

A BBC article from last year made a case for windowless planes- the windows being replaced by electronic screens with projected images. It featured a discussion with Emirates President Sir Tim Clark:

“Imagine now a fuselage as you’re boarding with no windows, but when you get inside, there are windows…Now you have one fuselage which has no structural weaknesses because of windows. The aircraft are lighter, the aircraft could fly faster, they’ll burn far less fuel and fly higher.”

Lighter? Faster? More structurally sound? Sounds like some great selling points. Although who knows if the public is ready for something so potentially claustrophobia-inducing.

Electric or hybrid propulsion

Could we see the same advancements in electric automobiles crossover to aviation? According to CNBC, Zunum Aero is planning a hybrid-electric airplane that has been backed by venture arms at Boeing and JetBlue Airways. However, this project is only a 12-passenger project. On a larger scale it may still be too far away.

This recent article about the Airbus and Siemens collaboration being cut-short is a strong indication that large-scale electric aviation is decades down the road. In November 2017, Siemens, Airbus and Rolls Royce announced plans for a 100-seater regional jet with a hybrid electric drive turbine by 2020. Unfortunately there is no longer any talk of close cooperation.

So we can scratch that off the list for now. But who knows, maybe some huge leaps in battery technology will happen soon?

A 737 successor

Maybe what’s needed most for Boeing is a complete overhaul of their 737 program. We know now that the 737 MAX issues all stem from an attempt to fit larger and more efficient engines into an old airframe that was too low to the ground.

A previous post considers a fresh re-design of the 737 instead of the 797. This post considers the possibility after the 797. Thinking about how prevalent the 737 has been in commercial aviation over the last 50 years, and how much damage the ‘brand name’ has suffered in the last few months, Boeing needs to do something to push that program forward.

Boeing 737 MAX beside The Boeing 797. Photo: Simple Flying.

Conclusion

Looking past the 797, all we can say for now is that we can expect future Boeing aircraft to be more fuel efficient with lighter materials and more efficient engines. Do you have any ideas and guesses about the future of aviation? Is there anything you’d like to see in a brand new plane? Let us know in the comments.

7 comments
  1. “Lighter? Faster? More structurally sound? Sounds like some great selling points. Although who knows if the public is ready for something so potentially claustrophobia-inducing“

    I’ve been thinking about and drawing out a few designs of a windowless, (but for the cockpit of course, doors and emergency exits) for years. The fact that no one even mentioned such a future design caused me to think that perhaps there was some fatal flaw but I could never find it.
    The potential for inducing a claustrophobia reaction should be slight when very thin LED screens are mounted inside the cabin where windows would be expected. The A380 used tiny cameras which allowed passengers to sit in their seats and gaze outside from the top of the vertical stabilizer, cockpit or either right or left side of the fuselage. A 1/4” hole drilled into the composite for a camera link is a whole lot better than cutting out larger and larger holes for conventional windows. I agree with Tim Clark, think of the saving in labor and materials, not to mentioned a stronger fuselage.
    Where such an idea really scores is when it’s adapted to new airliner shapes we see on tech magazine covers but never on airport runways. A V-shaped sonic cruiser, powered by engines mounted on the trailing edge and seating 300-1000 passengers would demand such a change. The V would allow only a small number of people to have window seats, but you could add the views to whatever entertainment features the airline chooses. If you are one who takes pictures out your scratched and more other dirty airliner windows, think of taking crystal clear shots by linking to the aircraft camera views.

    1. Good point! I would have no idea since I don’t get claustrophobic much. But I imagine it’s just the psychology of knowing you’re looking through a clear material and seeing “reality” that might be a comfort? Even if “reality” is just a dark black sky….

      1. at night you have runway lights and terminal lights – it is not pitch black when you look outside the window and you are below 500 feet from the ground…maybe you can still see some lights when you are at a window seat and 2000 feet from the ground. I am not claustrophobic but there are a number of people i know who would get a panic attack.

  2. Due to the bigger engines on the MAX, specially when at TO thrust, the CG has moved back. How about putting a plug in the front thus taking away the need to trim nose down and adding more seats and stability to the airframe?

  3. What about making a dividable aircraft?

    Airline always considers that aircraft is in service with not full of passengers.
    So, some of heavy season they can operate 3 or 4 piece of body aircraft but not heavy season they can operate 1 or 2 piece of body aircraft. (It is likely docking system between bodies)

    Of course, that is not a simple especially in technology and safety.

    But I guess it will be worthy for Airliner and their suppliers.

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