The Boeing 797 ‘NMA’ – Are There Any Developments?

Arguably the most hotly anticipated aircraft is the Boeing 797. The new midsized aircraft is set to shake up the market by offering airlines an aircraft in an important niche that is currently underserved. A counter to Airbus’ A321XLR, the 797 should give airlines plenty to consider. However, despite all this, Boeing has not launched the 797 yet. So, what is the story with Boeing’s new aircraft?

Boeing 797
What is next with the Boeing 797? Photo: Dj’s Aviation via Youtube

The case for the 797

Air travel has gone through several phases in the past. From multi-day transcontinental hops to transatlantic flights with three- and four-engine aircraft, and now to twinjets operating 18 hour nonstop flights. In more recent years, long and thin routes are becoming more and more prevalent.

These routes connect two cities, usually a hub to a secondary city, between which there would not be enough demand to sustain a widebody but too much for a 737 or A320. The ideal aircraft for this type of route would be a plane capable of seating closer to 200 passengers in a multi-class configuration with lie-flat business class seats among other amenities.

Delt a 757
Several of Delta’s Boeing 757s are outfitted with lie-flat business class seats. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Now, while the larger A321 and 737 MAX 10 can seat close to 200 passengers, this does not allow for a premium lie-flat configuration. Furthermore, the range of these aircraft excludes a few key city pairs. That is where the A321XLR comes into play.

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The long-range A321 can carry a higher load while also having sufficient range for a host of new routes. The problem is, Boeing doesn’t have anything to match this with. So, the 797 would be their counter to the A321XLR.

The case against the 797

The 797 has its merits, but there are a few reasons why Boeing’s NMA might not be an ideal aircraft for many airlines. On one hand, there is the question about entry timeline. If the 797 does not enter service by the time airlines need it, then it is likely that the A321XLR could see a boost in sales. Which, in turn, means that with the arrival of the 797, fewer airlines would have a need for such an aircraft.

A321XLR computer concept
The A321XLR could take a few orders away from the 797 if delayed. Photo: Airbus

In recent months, Boeing has had to focus on its 737 MAX. Depending on how long the grounding and return to service process lasts, this could take away a few key months from the manufacturer’s design process for the new aircraft. And, with the enhanced scrutiny on the 737 MAX, there may be consequences in terms of the certification of the 797, which could lead to additional delays.

What would the 797 replace?

The 797 is something of a successor to the 757. However, Delta Air Lines in particular has highlighted the 797 as a possible 767 replacement too.

Delta 767
Delta has indicated they may use the 797 as a replacement for both 757s and the larger 767s. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Though the 767 was an incredibly popular aircraft, a number of airlines have already selected replacements for the type. In fact, Delta has highlighted the Airbus A330-900neo as a 767 replacement while American is using Boeing 787s. So, the market slice there is already slimmer than the 767’s original order book. Combined with the 757, however, there is plenty of potential for the NMA. So far, it depends on how the A321XLR performs prior to the launch of the new plane by Boeing.

Boeing’s tight lips

Boeing has kept their lips tight on the 797. So far, the aircraft has not been announced and no formal orders have gone on the books. Nevertheless, Boeing has definitely discussed the concept of the aircraft with airlines. It seems, based on continued reports, that there is a push from the industry for a brand new aircraft.

Boeing hq
Boeing has been tight-lipped on the 797 with no formal launch of the aircraft. Photo: Boeing

These tight lips could be for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it could be that Boeing has not formally committed to designing and building the 797 aircraft. This could stem from Boeing’s diverted attention on the 737 MAX issues.

Launching a new aircraft amid the grounding could signal to the industry that either Boeing has lost confidence in the 737 MAX or is disregarding an important segment of their product lineup.

What does Boeing do next?

If Boeing does go for the 797, they need to get the 737 MAX back in the air sooner rather than later and announce the NMA pretty swiftly after that. The more delayed the 797, the more likely Airbus is to gain additional orders for their extra long range single-aisle twinjet.

Boeing 737 MAX
For the 797 to progress, Boeing needs to get the 737 MAX in the air sooner rather than later. Photo: Boeing

In the meantime, Boeing could continue its discussions with airlines about potential 797 orders. Although these are generally private, they are an integral part of the aircraft development process. Ultimately, if Boeing develops an airplane that their customers don’t want, then there would be no point in developing the aircraft at all.

Do you think Boeing will launch the 797? Let us know in the comments!

Simple Flying reached out to Boeing. However, Boeing did not respond prior to publication. 

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Christopher Bryant

I think Boeing has missed the ideal timeframe for design, build, test and launch partner. AB is far ahead in that regard

Chris

No doubt they missed the train, it’s now a smoke screen for next project.
Priority is to restore Max shipping and production to fastly get cash. New projects need trust in b ability to solve Max problems.

DHL

If they’re going to make a new plane, it should either be a plane similar in size and design (but more efficient, of course) as the 767-200 or a plane like the 757-200. Either of those would be massively successful if put out sooner rather than later, but Boeing really needs to get their act together w/ the 737 MAX. Maybe they might as well focus on a replacement for that aircraft and develop a shortened 787 or something similar.

Brody Cyr

There was originally going to be a 787-3 which would be the same size as the -8 but have smaller wingspan and engines

DHL

Well I think a further shortened -8 (maybe -7?) would be more applicable as this would put it in line with the size of the 767-200, the size of plane all the airlines seem to want now. Also retaining the current wings and engines (albeit with a few modifications) would, I THINK, improve the efficiency of the aircraft.

Matt

That’s always been the idea of the NMA. To fill the niche left by the 757 and 767-200. It was never going to replace the larger and longer range 767s. That’s what the 787 is for. The 767-200 was still pretty popular until recently, because most of them just aged out. Airlines would still like something of this size and range with better efficiency obviously.

Brody Cyr

I personally dont think the 797 will be a suitable replacement for the 767, unless it can fly trans Pacific the closest thing to the 767 will be the 787-8. But still none even compare the the 767, there’s just something about it that’s great.

Vince

It’s probably because of the capacity to range ratio. It makes the 767 very versatile and it has also proven it’s case in the B787-9 and A350-900.

Matt

As you said, the NMA won’t be used on those flights. That’s the job of the 787. It’s more for the higher capacity transcontinental and smaller transatlantic flights. Think 767-200 niche.

Boeing 777-200LR

Boeing has 2 other things to think about before the 797. First they need to get the MAX un-grounded and flying. Then they need to get the 777X released and flying. Then they can release the 797.

albez

Boeing can forget about the MAX. The whole 737 program should be scrapped and start from scratch. In the meantime, Boeing should quickly launch the 797 if it is to have any chance at getting a decent share of the MOM pie.

Matt

It’s too late to forget the MAX. If Boeing scrapped it, they would pretty much have to close down. A replacement will take a minimum of 5 years to design. In the meantime, Boeing has to sell some planes. They were making 52 per month before the slowdown, with almost no unsold “white aircraft”. That’s almost 3000 aircraft sales they would have to can. It’s just not feasible. . They should have asked for an updated version of the existing NG engines. It wouldn’t have the same fuel efficiency boost, but the design work could have been cheaper. Even MAXs… Read more »

Gary

In a way Boeing should take a leaf out of Airbus book in there next new planes.
They should do like the A320 and give it longer legs to make the fuselage higher.
So if to bring out a newer model years to come with bigger engines.
They won’t have the same problem as the 737 MAX.

Filip

Of course they will. All their designs after 737 were higher up from the ground. 737 was designed with low clearance due to a lot of airports with lacking infrastructure (think jetbridges and stairs) to handle jets with high ground clearance at those times.

Richard

I reckon Boeing is waiting for an American airline like United/Delta to launch the project who are in turn waiting for Boeing to commit before they get involved. Bit like a circle.
Given United/Delta have ordered lots of Airbuses recently I reckon they may well order the A321XLR if Boeing delay by much longer.
A 767-200ER Neo (never going to happen) kind of solution would be a great solution.

DHL

Exactly. If Delta and United convince Boeing they are interested enough that would be great for both the airline and the company. Boeing needs to get this right, though.

Matt

What else are the airlines supposed to do. Both Delta and United have shown a heavy interest, and Delta has been “Shut up and take our money” about it. Without Boeing formally launching the program, the airlines have literally done everything possible. They can’t even do a letter of intent yet.

Richard JOHNSON JR

I think boeing should build this plane just like the 757’s. 210-215 people on one version and 235-240 on the other with 4000nms range. With high altitude take offs on shorter runways for the developing cities in South and Central America. This market is bigger and bigger every year.

ATS

Yes!

Rod Abid

Well maybe yes, maybe no. Several airlines are still waiting for Boeing to announce. United and Delta are pushing Boeing to move forward. And this plane isn’t as huge a change as the 787. Nor is it one iteration too far like the 737MAX. The 797 could be the plane that gives Boeing back its mojo.
But yes, the 757 could be the design that gets them out of their 737MAX mess.

Herb33

The article completely ignores the need for a brand new engine. The principal engine makers do not appear to be convinced about the market potential, and Rolls Royce have already announced they will not compete . There is no point in offering this aircraft without a next generation engine offering significant improvements in fuel consumption. It is likely that by the time such an engine could be in service the 321XLR and LR will have already captured much of the market.

kfj

Correct and another thing to mention is that many of the engine makers are still dealing with problems on their existing newer designs.

Andrew Heenan

The real problem for Boeing is that it’s a whole new airframe to cover a pretty small niche, and history shows us that by the time the plane has been designed, tested and is ready for service, the anticipated ‘huge demand’ may have moved on. You only have to look at the B787/A350 order book to see that the trend towards smaller planes , while not leaving these two high and dry, has left them with fewer orders than anticipated. With Boeing’s other problems, can they afford to invest bigly and risk the fickle market moving on? Well, yes, they… Read more »

Wilbur

Who in their right mind will ever consider flying on a B 737 Max ever again now knowing how this airframe was continually stretched and stretched again far beyond its original design parameters since the mid 1960’s ? Frankly I am amazed that the executive committee who approved this unprecented stretching and poorly advised engine placement is still on the job . As we now know this aircraft is basically unstable in flight mode and unable to fly normally without continual computer oversight . And this all because of the ill advised forward and elevated engine placement , hence creating… Read more »

Ken

Why not re-engineering the 757, by upgrading the engines and some other stuffs, just like how Airbus did to their A320 and A330?

Chris

Sort of 757 Max ?
😉

Matt

Apparently, Boeing destroyed most of the 757 tooling.

Dave

Boeing needs to realise that the B737 has reached its use by date after the launch of the 800 and 900 series. The AB320 family has maybe 1 or 2 more iterations to go. Also the B737 family cannot handle AIRTAINERS, where the AB320 family can.
The MAX series was a STEP TOO FAR….

Michael Sheargold

It’s interesting that Boeing hasn’t launched their original 797 concept, I’m think behind closed doors they are working on a new range of aircraft to replace the 737 Max (a super smart move). Yes I know you’re about to say but look at the orders! Boeing will do a brilliant job on a new aircraft that starts slightly bigger than the A320 and bumps into A321xlr territory and beyond. Those orders will mostly move from the outdated 737 Max to a 797 clean sheet design. It’s what Boeing we’re planning to do back in 2011!

Rafal Kowalczyk

In my opinion in current situation Boeing should forget about 797 and focus on the successor of the 737, speed up the project to offer it faster than Airbus will introduce a successor of A320 family. Going ahead with the NMA project would be a waste of money and resources.

A M

It would be great if the 797 can replace 737 & 757s…. just add extra range and longer fuselage to replace the latter.

Anil Talpade

As per the information available on the 797, it beats 321XLR only in the Aisle design. 797 is supposed to be twin Aisle while 321XLR is single Aisle.

Said this, 797 might have advantage over 321XLR over passenger movement, seat spacing and other amenities.

This is just a thought.

ATS

What if boeing were to redesign the original 757’s design and better suit it for todays needs and come up with 3 variants – the first being the “757-8” – a direct successor to the -200. Also the -9 for the -300, and then what about a -7 for a temporary 737 replacement?

Passerby

Well, it’s a good idea but it might take more than a year to develop and restart the production and it will be obviously costly too. Since developing the MAXes takes BOEING 6 years after all. BOEING currently stuck it a tight rope and making the reengined 757 while the MAXes still grounded will only make BOEING dig its own grave even deeper. So yeah, right now is a bad time to make the reengined 757. Well, If they make it alongside the MAXes then it might works and even might secure DELTA orders too since they want a 757… Read more »

DaveF712

Have to wonder if Boeing can ever get back to where they were a few years ago. It seems that the Boeing Board sat on their hands when the development of the 737Max should have been authorized. Allowed Airbus to get a 2 year lead on that. Boeing was then in a catchup jamb. No time left for the total new design needed for the bigger engines. But the Board was still burned by the 787 development fiasco with so much that got outsourced. So they jerry-rigged a way to fit the bigger engines on the old 737 frame, never… Read more »

Smokerr

I would like to see the bad picture with the winglets be done in.

No new Boeing is going to have winglets.

If it gets a new wing the winglets are gone as well, design it right and they are not needed.

Matt

There has to be something to limit the wing vortex. Even Boeing’s latest swept wingtip does this. The angle to the wing surface doesn’t appear to be that critical.

Andy

Boeing need to shelve the 797 for now, and get a 757MAX rolled out asap. The 737 MAX has become a massive headache for Boeing, so they need to cut costs and this would be the best way to go.
A 767MAX might be workable too as many passengers don’t relish spending 8hrs on a single aisle type.
It’s economics;they don’t have the money to spend on another completely new design at the moment, and probably not for a couple of years or more.

John Page

1. It is clear that the 737 design has reached its limit. So no more 737s.
2. They have needed a 757 replacement for years.
3 They need a new design that replaces them both
4 Boeing purchased Aurora with their D8 design. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_D8

So, perhaps the reason they are tight lipped is that they have something amazing up their sleeve and don’ want to canibalize 737 sales in the meantime. As a shareholder I hope so…