Back at the start of 2019, Boeing planned to bring to the market a brand new aircraft dubbed the 797. It would have filled in the middle of the market and ushered in a new age for Boeing. What happened, and why didn’t Boeing move ahead with the type?
What was the Boeing 797?
The Boeing 797 was a rumored project (it was never officially put up for sale as a product) discussed heavily by Boeing as its next big aircraft.
There were two aircraft models:
- Boeing 797-6 that could carry 228 passengers to a range of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km)
- Boeing 797-7 that could carry 267 passengers to a range of 4,200 nautical miles (7,778 km)
Boeing would have developed the 797-6 first, and then stretched the fuselage to reach the bigger 797-7.
The aircraft type would have fit in the ‘middle of the market,’ a zone of passengers, and range that is not currently filled by any aircraft. At the bottom of the gap, there is the Boeing 737 MAX 10, and at the upper limit of the gap, there is the widebody Boeing 787-8.
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The 797 might have also been a widebody aircraft, making it perfect for medium-haul domestic routes with high traffic, like Chicago to New York, or Sydney to Melbourne. Twin-aisles would have also sped up the turnaround at each airport, allowing more sectors per day (and a significant boost to the airlines’ bottom line). Boeing believed there would be a demand for around 5,000 to up to 7,000 units.
Plus, Airbus has slowly moved into the category with its longer-ranged A321LR and A321XLR series, winning plenty of orders at the Paris Air Show just last year.
Overall, the 797 filled the market gap and would be a fantastic breadwinner for Boeing.
What happened to it?
Alas, several situations came at once for Boeing.
First, we need to consider the above mentioned Airbus A321XLR. Boeing wanted to bring 797 to market around the same time as the A321XLR, but when Airbus struck first, Boeing took the time to reconsider its design and look for competitive advantages. If Boeing couldn’t bring the 797 to market before the XLR, then it might as well take its time and make the 797 better.
Unfortunately, Boeing’s attention was quickly shifted to the 737 MAX program when the aircraft suffered two crashes. The firm froze all development until it could determine the problem, and then for when it could resume construction of the type. This is still ongoing today and the Boeing 737 MAX is only now starting to undergo recertification.
Lastly, Boeing’s management underwent a radical shift to answer for the crashes, with Boeing replacing its CEO pushing for the project. The new CEO has decided that the 797 needed to go in a new direction – especially considering the current market forces today in late 2020.
Is Boeing still working on the 797?
Boeing hasn’t given up on the dream yet, as none of its products fill the middle of the market segment. Today, there are rumors that it may look at a re-release of the 767 or 757 (dubbed the Plus) or bringing back the old 787-3 program.
What do you think? What direction should Boeing go in? Let us know in the comments.