The Boeing 797/NMA Is Going Back To The Drawing Boards

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Boeing has shelved all of its plans for the ‘797 NMA’ and has been asked to return to the drawing board by its new CEO. This is surprising as the Boeing 797 was rumored to be on the verge of announcement only a year ago, but now seems to be a concept that needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

Boeing factory
Boeing has delayed the Boeing 797 project for many years. Photo: Getty Images

You can watch a video about this news item here:

What was the Boeing 797?

The Boeing 797 was designed as an aircraft to solve the ‘middle of the market’ problem.

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The middle of the market is defined as routes that need a passenger capacity from 200-300 across a medium-haul distance. This market might include routes like Sydney to Melbourne, in which a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 is too small to effectively meet market demand, and a long haul Airbus A330 or Boeing 777 is too big.

Thus Boeing envisioned a cheap aircraft that could carry 220-270 passengers in a widebody twin-aisle configuration to fill this market niche.

Boeing 767
The Boeing 797 will be about the same size as the Boeing 767 but will have a shorter range. Photo: Boeing.

The aircraft would have been cheap enough (around $100 million USD at list prices) that it would be a good workhorse for any fleet.

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The rumored specs of the two Boeing 797 models were:

  • 797-6 – able to seat 228 passengers and fly a range of 4,500nm (8,300km)
  • 797-7- seating 267 passengers and fly a range of 4,200nm range (7,700km)

The aircraft would have also been a replacement for both the Boeing 757 (although the 737 MAX 10 was also a good 757 replacement) and the Boeing 767.

Many airlines appeared interested in the type, such as Delta Air Lines and Qantas, but they had been unable to make an order at this time.

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In fact, up until this week, a ‘major supplier’ to Boeing for the NMA 797 program still had a meeting with the aerospace builder, when it was abruptly canceled.

Why has Boeing restarted the project?

Essentially, the market has changed.

“Since the first clean sheet of paper was taken to it, things have changed a bit … the competitive playing field is a little different,” Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told Reuters journalists on a conference call on Wednesday.

“We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper again; I’m looking forward to that,”

Boeing 797
The 797 was a conceptual aircraft to fill the middle of the market. Photo: Dj’s Aviation via Youtube

“[The CEO] has asked the team to do an assessment of the future market and what kind of airplane is needed to meet the future market,” – Boeing Spokesperson to Reuters

There are two major situations that have occurred in the last year that they may be referring to.

The first is the Boeing 737 MAX disaster. Boeing has had to deal with the fallout of this scenario for the last year and put other new jet development programs like the Boeing 777X on the backburner.

Another issue is that a new rival aircraft has appeared which does largely what the Boeing 797 intended to do. Airbus launched the Airbus A321XLR aircraft back at the Paris Air Show and it has snapped up orders from many different airlines. This aircraft can fly an incredible range and seats up to 220 passengers.

A321XLR infographic
The A321XLR was not part of the plan… yet. Photo: Airbus

Airbus also offered the A330-800neo for airlines needing an aircraft for the 270-300 seat range, but it has so far not been very popular.

With this news, Boeing will be looking at around five years to bring a new aircraft design to market (just the design, then they have to build and test it). But with the airframe builder asking for $10 billion USD in loans, do they have an appetite to design a whole new expensive aircraft?

What do you think of this news? Why is the Boeing 797 being delayed? Let us know in the comments.

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Kaden|kadezimm2004@gmail.com

For some reason I’m not even surprised…….What is Boeing’s future anyway??

Muyang Shen|18392570809@163.com

I support Calhoun's decision. The market has indeed changed and Airbus A321XLR has already taken up a large share of what could've been 797's market.

Milo

Toooo Late..!!

mohave

Boeing needs a state of the art 737 replacement. The 737 should go the way of the 727. With extensive composites, a 40 m wingspan , cabin wide enough for 18.6 inch seats in coach (like A220), same type rating as 787, it would compete with the A321XLR.

David Edborg

The good news is that Boeing’s new CEO is reviewing all of the aircraft programs. Rethinking the 797 is an opportunity to replace the 737 MAX with completely re-engineered aircraft designed from the ground up for a market need. Reality is that the 737 frame is tired and cramped compared to the A32x frame. Sure the A32x is only inches wider and coach seats a fraction of an inch wider, but on a percentage basis, it’s a huge difference in passenger comfort. Me, I will choose an A32x any day over a 737 and will never knowingly book a flight on a MAX, and I can only imagine how many other people feel the same way too. The point is that variants of the 797 covering 180-280 seats gives Boeing a chance to build on the success of the 787 and an opportunity to bury the MAX for good.

Jack bunce

They need to put all their efforts into survival. That means replacing the 737 Max with something that will bridge the gap.

Frank

The lower end of the MoM has been cleverly eaten away by the A321LR & XLR. A 5 year wait is a best case scenario for a clean sheet design – just take a look at the delays and cost overruns for the A220 and the 787. The Max 10 will get you some 200 pax, but flies about the same range as the A220 (6100KM). The XLR is flying some 8700 KM with 200 pax and is the true 757 replacement.
Which leaves the 500 or so 767’s set to retire (not counting the freighters).

Delta is the biggest operator, flying 77 of the 767, but it has 37 A330 Neo’s on order (4 flying).
United has about 50 left. If they order the A330 Neo – it’s all but over.

Where does Boeing go from here?

I think you put the MoM design on the back burner and given that;

1) The 737 Max issues
2) The competition has a great clean sheet design flying, with a stretch to ~ 175 seats on the way (A220-500)
3) The market for single aisle jets far outweighs the MoM segment

They better get moving on their Future Small Aircraft – 737 Max is a short term stop gap.

Jim Elving

Well, the ex-General Electric executives have run Boeing into the ground. The latest one will probably finish Boeing off. Very sad!

Adam Purcell

This is a bad decision. They need a plane now in this category. The new CEO is trying not to make the same mistake as the organization did with the 737 MAX but this is a smaller segment and they are so far behind in terms of schedule that they should move forward since the current design, making it a value play / workhouse for the airlines. Turns out you can sell airplanes if they make sense financially and don’t crash. Granted, I agree if you could go back 5 years a clean-sheet program is the right move, but it’s way too late in the game now. Keep it simple and launch a basic aircraft in this segment and live to fight another day. As soon as the MAX is approved, start a clean-sheet 150 – 185 program government replace the MAX, then clean sheet the 200 – 300 passenger category after you launch a new workhorse in that category. That is the right move. They are putting their eggs in the wrong basket with this change in product roadmap. The 150 – 185 segment is just too important to let the MAX be the plane you are going live with long-term. I am a huge Boeing / 737 fan and I want nothing to do with the MAX. I do not trust a plane that is aerodynamically unstable and needs a work-around software program to fix it. That is not going to make passengers or airlines feel warm and fuzzy inside. Launch the MAX, fill your existing orders and then replace it as quickly as possible – that is the right move long-term.

Ha Ha

“The plane is not aerodynamic without an autopilot system thanks to the much too forward engines” LOL I’d love to see your analysis demonstrating this.

Kevin

The shelving of the 797 is in large measure due to the A321XLR. Airbus beat them to the draw on this and many other fields.

PETER LORENZONI

My hunch is the Boeing camp is seriously considering an aircraft that replaces the 737 family and covers a portion of the “middle of the market”

Pedro V Santos

We cannot have a single model replace both the 757 and 767. Some airlines need a single aisle other need a twin aisle. Only need a new aircraft to replace the 757, although probably several design portions could be reused. It’s been out of production for almost for almost 20 years, so unfortunately, it cannot be brought back. The 767 can be brought back. It’s a proven workhorse. Re-engine it and give it so updated avionics.

Stanley Kerns

Well – the stability problems made no sense until I read your article – I bet at the bottom you would find MBA’s over ruling engineers-you would think Boeing would learn – but Boeing is run by MBA’s
Stan

Ken

A 757 MAX or NEO? Ah too late!

WHO

Some of the comments made are not the issue. One of these airlines needs to take the next step in airliner lifting bodies. Which one will it be? More efficient designs exist but are radical and may scare flatly dumb travelers until they are used to it.

Bill Reunion

Odd… I watched the video above, just below the line “You can watch a video about this news item here.”

It’s essentially a person reading this story verbatim but I noticed something interesting. Here are the differences:
Article: “Another issue is that of a new rival aircraft that does what the Boeing 797 intended to do.”
Video : “Another issue is that of a new rival aircraft that does what the Boeing 797 intended to do, but BETTER.”

I wonder why this “but BETTER” ad lib only exists in the video and not the article. Since there hasn’t been any solid 797/NMA specifications nailed down, how can one infer the Airbus A321XLR is truly better?

Carlos Diaz

The 797 should have been a single isle composite aircraft like the 787. They could have done a single type cert like they did with the 767 and 757. But no they wanted to milk the 737 cow until it dies. Well guess what ? They are going to have to k**l it to consentrate resources on the 797.

Anonymous

Boeing has enough issues with the 737 Max and the 777X. David Calhoun will figure out when Boeing has the manpower and financial resources to devote to redesigning the 797. It may not be a true NMA when the redesign is finished.

Tyler

I want to point out that the 737 MAX is still very aerodynamic and stable in most flying conditions. MCAS was designed to help pilots maintain stability during high angles of attack and t****t, where the placement of the engines caused undesirable maneuverability issues. MCAS’ design and implementation is the primary problem with the aircraft, it is NOT the physical design of the aircraft itself.

Bloke

You snooze you lose. Boeing should have launched 797 instead of the max, would have been certified by now and A321XLR would not have had a chance.

Alex K Thomas

I seriously wish they would completely scrap this MAX8 plane and start a new. Trying to glue back together whatever sliver of dignity and trust you have left. Just let it go. With the way AA was going to approach the MAX8, I would be livid to experience that in flight.

Carl

Regarding your statement about the 737MAX requiring an autopilot system to be aerodynamic because of the engines being too far forward. Please explain this, if you cannot, I highly suggest you some research and back the statement up with facts before publishing trash like this.

T L

The 797 NMA was a bad idea. It’s good in the short term (for passengers and airlines), but bad in the long term: too many types of planes makes it harder for Boeing to keep them up to date and competitive.

What they should do is build a proper 737 replacement, with the base design size about that of the A321 (so a bit smaller than the 797-6), allowing a stretch to nearly cover the 797-7 size and a shrink to cover the A320 size. (The A319 size is now covered by the E2s, so no need to cover that.)

I saw somewhere that Airbus is thinking about doing a clean-sheet replacement of the A32x (and they obviously have the luxury of being able to take their time, and also not having any other current large projects) and Boeing would be foolish not to think about doing likewise.

Keoni48

Boeing needs to build a 737 replacement NOW. It’s long past time to scrap an aircraft that was designed in the early 60’s. From what I’ve read the 757 would have made a good replacement, but wasn’t marketed as such. Even Volkwagon eventually decided the original beetle had to go away.

John Miller

Boeing needs to build a 737 replacement NOW. It’s long past time to scrap an aircraft that was designed in the early 60’s. From what I’ve read the 757 would have made a good replacement, but wasn’t marketed as such. Even Volkwagon eventually decided the original beetle had to go away.

Richard Prior

Why the 797 will be Boeing’s answer to Medium / Short haul Market

737 MAX series is offered in four main variants, typically offering 138 to 230 seats and a range of 3,215 to 3,825 nmi (5,954 to 7,08 4 km). The 737 MAX 7, MAX 8 (including the denser, 200-seat MAX 200) , and MAX 9 replace, respectively, the 737-700, -800, and -900.

797 – The New Midsize Airplane (NMA), or New Midsize Aircraft, is a concept airliner designed by … The new aircraft, likely to be named the Boeing 797, would be available in two versions: a 225-seater with 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) range and a 275-seater … The new airplane is expected to have seven-abreast seating, like the 767.

As a former Frequent flyer over 2 decades,
1. I have an aversion to Single aisle aircraft
2. An unusually long Hip to Knee length that dictates selection of carriers
3. Have flown in many aircraft considered unsafe

No-one of the Press dares to write about ‘Passenger Acceptance’ of the Max once FAA approval is received.

In my opinion, ALL civilian aircraft should be designed to be flown by human pilots under ALL conditions and SUPPORTED by autopilot systems at the choice of the human pilot.

The Max is a aerodynamic as a Brick, and a high percentage of passengers will elect to travel in better designed and more comfortable Airbus A321 options.

A well balanced 797 design is imperative to compete with Airbus.

I will never travel on a Max unless in my coffin.

Chris

Give them $40billion. If they can connect experiences immediately and for cheap and most importantly, safely. Absolutely and Please and ASAP and they need to make it right to the victims without litigation.

Kevin M-S

Difficult decision, but I think it is the right one – the 737’s reputation is trashed because of the MAX scandal and this is now a massive opportunity to put this 1960s design to rest along with all its compromises that are the root cause of this mess. The priority now should be to design an all new narrow body to replace the 737 completely and the largest version of it should be 757-sized to cater for the NMA market. It will be painful for Boeing in he short term, but by the time such a plane goes into service the A320 will be a fundamentally 35-40 year old design, and Boeing will have Airbus on the back foot.

Andy Richards

No surprise. Boeing’s big mistake was scrapping the 757 and not upgrading it. Just look at how many A321s Airbus have sold.

Robert

It would have made sense for Boeing to pull off a dual new plane release or a 757/767 version 2.0… but before making too making too much of Airbus’ brilliance with the A32x family, don’t forget the Boeing outwitted Airbus with the 787 over the white elephant A380, forcing the A350 design…

Jim cuthbertson

I think airbus should bring a smaller version of the a330 . This would fit in well and take over from the Boeing 767.

Vince

If the new NMA design covers the NSA, does this mean the max will not fly again?

Anthony Burrell

Why? Cause it most likely uses the MCAS system like the 737 MAX. A plane many people including myself will never fly on

Oscar

Boeing still hasn’t learned anything from history. If it works why change it? The 757 is the best mid range plane that the world has come to enjoy utilizing. Its the only tall version of the A321 so why not bring it back, update it to current industry standards, recoup money lost on that horrible 737 Max idea and call it a day. Stop trying to make these new planes that are just bringing you problems! Boeing wake up!!!!

SeanAV

Agree with the ditch the 737, come back with an all new design that can compete with the 321xlr. Maybe consider a 787 with engines derated for high capacity shorter route’s like the 787-3 which they had on the drawing board, when they first pitched the 787.

Rick P.

Boeing needs to pull the 757 drawings from storage and do to it what Tony Stark did with his MARK 1. It would be lighter, upgraded with 787 avionics and Max fuel efficient engines. Perfect 737 replacement.
As for the 797 Boeing needs to shrink the 787 instead of stretching it. Minimum cost for the re engineering and it will be common type as the 787 because it is a 787. Usually the biggest problems have simple solutions. Boeing’s future will be super and hypersonic spacecraft.

Rick p.

Simple solutions!!! re-engineer the 757 make it lighter more fuel efficient and new avionics. Perfect 737 max disaster replacement. Shrink the 787 perfect 767 replacement. Boeing’s future is on super/hyper sonic spacecraft.

Andy

I think this is a sound decision. To persevere with the 737MAX is to push a plane on the market in which it is becoming increasingly evident that passengers have lost confidence, and would prefer to avoid.
The A330-800 sales are indicating that it is too big an aircraft for the task, and not flexible enough, but the 737MAX and A321neo are not the answer to passengers who don’t want to fly in a single-aisle aircraft.
An all-new design similar to the 767 but with cutting edge tech would likely be the best solution. It would likely generate sales which the A330 and 787 have failed to do, especially with the newest fuel-efficient engines and other refinements. It could also give Boeing a chance to regain passenger confidence with a fully sorted, certified aircraft with a real wow factor.

VikingIVesterled

If the 797 really was going to be a 220 seat mid range plane for 100 million dollars it would have been an excellent replacement for the ExMax for the likes of Ryanair and Southwest, that would proboably have taken 1/3 of a 5000 production between them If it actually was aerodynamically efficient and low on fuel consumption in comparison. The extra aisle would have speeded up boarding no end.
Question is if the design process for the NMA was flawed and built on the same principles that sent Max spiralling due to prioritizing profit over safety. And whether regulators and the market would ever again trust an aircraft planned in that era. Or like the 777x it would be bogged down in delays for ever and a day.

Davie

I personally think they should push it as losing far too many orders to Airbus in this sector and you cant rely on 1960s design to go forward so get it built and available to order very soon or Airbus will be buying over Boeing

Morgan Lynn Crawford

From what I have learned , I would say because of the issues with Boeing as a whole. I think the disaster with the 737 max has increased concerns with all levels within the company.

Daniel Perz

Boeing has become like GMC big inefficient and a failure. They could easily just install longer landing gear on 737 max, avoiding so many problems. CEOs overpaid, inefficient culture may sent the company out of business.

Michael

B-757 Mark ll.

The BMW of aircraft design.

Was there ever a more perfect airplane than the B757?

Dr. Fergal Sherlock

My feeling is by the time Boeing get anything designed, built, certified, and production streamlined… It’ll be 2030. What happens until then? Look how long ‘derivates’ like the 777x and the Max have and are taking from their launch… And these existed already.

I’d be worried of I had stoxk., In the long-term future of BA.

Dr. Fergal Sherlock

My feeling is by the time Boeing get anything designed, built, certified, and production streamlined… It’ll be 2030. What happens until then? Look how long ‘derivatives’ like the 777x and the Max have and are taking from their launch… And these existed already.

I’d be worried of I had stoxk., In the long-term future of BA.

Patrick

Whatever the layout, range or capacity a clean sheet new design needs to start with Aircraft Design 101 and produce something that is stable in flight wihout fancy computer programs to correct basic design faults.

Jaime López

Why in Japan 🇯🇵 the main airlines, JAL, ANA use lots of 777s in small routes like Tokio Osaka etc in a Daily basis and many other closest cities and never complain about that the plane is to big or to small for certain routes like in America? Here all the airlines are saturated with smalls airplanes, full of 737s and still MD 8/9, none American airliner have an A380, I bet Boeing sabotage them like they did with the DC-10,. I’m a flight from Seattle to Miami now you fly a 737😋while before I did in a A320, MD 11 big airplanes, I fly less now but I have a hard time finding a big airplane for a long hold in a domestic route 90% of them are cover by 737s or A320s. To fly abroad no problem Qatar, Etihad, Emirates BA, AF etc. the best, my daughter flew from Honolulu in a 737 to LAX, she came back very upset about it. 😂 😎

Locke Perkins

Majority opinion says the 737Max is 1970s technology riding on 2020 motors. There isn’t any room for real improvement in the airframe, so Boeing has to do this. The same might be said of the rest of Boeing’s commercial stable. Everything besides the 787 is yesterday’s tech “improved” with newer engines. The danger here is that Boeing will try to do this on the cheap (remember that bean-counters run the company) and wind up something that is far less than what is possible. Not to denigrate David Calhoun (impressive resume!), but Oh, for a Kelly Johnson figure right now!

Jason Traxler

It sounds like Airbus has been doing the same thing, tweeking an old design to stay ahead of the competition. Shortcuts may work in the short-term but in the long term inherent design flaws will lead to a disaster, i.e. the aerodynamically unstable 737MAX. It’s time to shave some of the profits in return for a sound, aerodynamically stable platform. While you’re at it, do the same in the military program and get rid of some of your engineering and support staff that cannot engineer aerodynamically stable platforms into the future. Investors, invest in the future and stop all this short term gambling. The flying public doesn’t want to be a part of your short term risk.