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Boeing Is Planning To Build What Will Be The Ultimate City Connector

From Airline Ratings

boeing797_617By Geoffrey Thomas

Boeing is planning to build what will be a revolutionary new aircraft that will make it economically viable to literally connect hundreds of new non-stop routes between smaller cities.

At last week’s Paris Air Show, Boeing’s VP and general manager of airplane development, Mike Delaney gave a tantalizing glimpse of what air travel will become by late 2024.

The new aircraft that could be called the Boeing 797 but is now known at Boeing as the New Midsize Airplane will come in two models and seat between 220 and 270 passengers. It will fit between the single-aisle 180-230 seat Boeing 737 and the much larger and ultra-long range 250-350 seat 787.

What started out as a replacement for the Boeing 757, which seats between 239 and 280 and flies 4000nm (7300km),  has evolved into an aircraft with far greater capability and appeal.

Making the twin-engine 797 so special is the fact it is designed from the outset to serve medium-haul routes of up to 9,300kms and will cut fuel costs by 25 to 30 percent compared to the 787- itself the world leader in fuel economy.

Boeing says that there are 30,000 city pairs that are not connected and could be served economically with the 797.

In a twist, the 797 will be almost identical in size to two planes -the 7J7 and DC-11 - that were touted by Boeing and its legacy company McDonnell Douglas in the 80s and 90s.

In both cases, neither could close the business case because the market was not ready and in the case of McDonnell Douglas management balked at the investment. But that has all changed.

The challenge for airlines today is that Boeing offers the 180-230 seat 737 that can only fly economically for about six hours while the next smallest plane in the Boeing range is the 787 which been designed for much longer distances and thus carries a great deal of extra structural weight.

There is a similar - although smaller - gap in the Airbus range of planes.

The 797 will fit neatly in between and give airlines great opportunities to open new routes.

For the passenger, the 797 will be a giant step forward in comfort with a 2-3-2 configuration in economy, 1-2-2 in premium economy and 1-1-1 in business class.

The plane will be an all composite construction and feature a new generation of engine that promises unparalleled fuel economy and quietness. Boeing is well advanced in closing the business case and has discussed the aircraft with 57 airlines and the reaction has been enthusiastic.

Mr Delaney said that Boeing hopes to launch the plane late next year with first flight and certification in 2024 with delivery to airlines early in 2025. The 797 will have oval-shaped fuselage and be something like a 767 above the floor and a 737 below.

The company is willing to compromise on cargo space to reduce the profile, and thus drag,  of the aircraft.

It reasons correctly that cargo is not as big of a consideration on the largely secondary routes it will operate.

And Mr Delaney said “Boeing already knows what the production system will look and the assembly sequence and is already building parts for the aircraft in the computer.”

“We are trying to build the first few hundred in the computer – that’s the power of the digital world.”

This is all key to working out the exact cost to build and then closing the business case. And the chances of a go-ahead?

“I am very optimistic that we will close the business case,” said Mr Delaney.

And...... Then there is a differing view

How Airbus Can Kill The Boeing 797

From Leeham News and Comment

Airbus can kill the business case for the prospective Boeing 797, the New Midrange Aircraft also known as the Middle of the Market Airplane.

All it has to do is move first, instead of waiting for Boeing to launch the 797, something considered likely next year.

If Airbus launched what is commonly called the A322, a larger, longer-range version of the A321neo, the new version would become a true replacement for the Boeing 757, meet economics of the smaller 797, which has a working title of the 797-6, at a much lower capital cost.

Studies underway for some time

Airbus has been working on plans to enhance the A321neo (the A321neo-plus) and go even farther (the A321neo plus-plus) for nearly two years.

In an interview with LNC at the March 2016 ISTAT meeting, Airbus COO Customers John Leahy declined to comment whether aircraft tweaks will add some improvements to the current A321neo (which at the time hadn’t even flown) to further lower the fuel burn. He also demurred on speculating what an “A321neo-Plus-Plus” response to a 737-10 or Boeing MOM airplane might look like.

(Since then, as the 737-10 design settled in to a mere stretch of the 737-9, Airbus sniffs that it doesn’t have to do anything to respond to the latest 737.)

“Let’s wait and see what they do [about the NMA},” Leahy said a year ago. “I rather liken the situation we’re in with the 350 and 787. We watched what they did and then we had the luxury of sitting down and saying, ‘what should we do to add value?’

“Let them do whatever they need to do in the Middle of the Market,” Leahy said.

Iffy business case, so far

The business case for the 797 so far remains iffy. LNC believes Boeing “has” to do the airplane, because of the weakness of the 737-9 and 737-10, and the clear trend toward essentially abandoning the 787-8. This creates a huge product gap for Boeing.

But designing and building the 797-6 and 797-7 at a cost that will permit sales in the $70m-$80m range is problematic at best.

(The 797-6 is roughly the same size as the Boeing 767-200 and the -7 is about the size of the 767-300.)

Much of the business case appears to rest on tying aftermarket service contracts for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) with 797 sales, LNC’s market sources tell us. Wells Fargo aerospace analyst Sam Pearlstein reported the same in a research note last month.

Furthermore, the market demand remains a question. Boeing now claims there is demand for about 5,000 airplanes in the MOM sector. If so, this could comfortably support Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

But others—LNC included—believe the market, while significant, is quite a bit smaller than 5,000.


The most commonly discussed entry-into-service for the 797 is 2024-2025, though LNC has heard it could slip to 2026. The EIS depends entirely on engine availability.

The engine needs to have 45,000-50,000 lbs thrust. CFM and GE Aviation would jointly produce one, said Safran in its recent earnings call. Safran is 50% owner of CFM, with GE owning the other 50%.

Rolls-Royce also said publicly it will compete with an entirely new engine.

Pratt & Whitney would offer a larger version of its GTF.

Since CFM and RR are pursuing entirely new engines, while PW would up-scale its GTF, PW may be in a position to provide Airbus with a powerplant for the A322 before CFM and RR could offer a new engine for the 797.

Getting the jump

Might Airbus be able to offer an A322 with an EIS two or more years ahead of the 797?

If so, launching the A322 sooner than later (and at a much lower cost will put Airbus in a position to capture the lower end of the MOM Sector. This will undermine the case for the 797-6—and this reduce the business case for the 797-7.

And this is how Airbus might kill the 797 before it gets off the ground.

Two more views:

CNN Money


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