A teaser graphic as to what a 797 might look like

After yet another Paris Air Show in which all the hype about the launching of a Boeing 797, or a Boeing MoM, or a Boeing NMA and so forth, has produced nothing definite, it might be appropriate to question some of the statements made on the elusive project’s behalf.

Many of those statements are canvassed with meticulous accuracy in this exemplary report on CNN Money.  This isn’t about shooting the messenger, but dissecting the contents of the message.

Boeing has briefed reporters that “The jet would fill a gap between Boeing’s single-aisle 737 workhorse and its advanced long range 787.”

However it also briefed that “It would seat between 220 and 270 passengers for flights of up to 5,200 nautical miles, or just over 10 hours.”

Boeing contradicts itself massively with these simple statements. The newly augmented 737 MAX series (with the launch of the 737 MAX 10) and the 787 Dreamliner family already have that mythical gap covered. There are some 787s in service with as few as 180 odd seats flying Dreamliner routes that appeared to be predominantly about as long as the North Atlantic routes between east coast USA and the western reaches of the EU and the UK. There are many more 787s flying such routes there, and within the Asia Pacific, with higher seat counts.

The 787 is often flown with more seats than 270 and as befitting its well demonstrated versatility over everything from rather short to very long ranges. The single aisle 737 family benefits from the MAX family’s improved engine technology and other refinements to the extent where it is being introduced on trans north Atlantic routes, and is well sized to allow flights from smaller sized cities to do that non-stop, bypassing the hell that is JFK or LHR where the demand profile is judged by airlines to be worth addressing.

If the 797, or whatever it is designated, is to compete with the capabilities of aging out of production 757s, or currently available 737s and 787s and the Airbus alternatives, it has to do something more than overlap them in range/payload combinations.

But what? It could fly those routes with more comfort, if Boeing makes it say a seven across twin aisle jet similar in passenger amenity to the much missed Boeing 767 family. By 2025, which is four Paris Air Shows from now, Boeing says the jet could be in service, and no doubt, with further cost reduction improvements to those achieved by current designs.

Yet the notion that an airline might fly a fleet of 797s against a proven and perhaps largely depreciated fleet of less comfortable 737s and 787s seems on the face of it implausible, no matter how desirable it could be. Airlines could achieve the same restored level of amenity as a 797 might offer by reconfiguring their by then older MAXs and Dreamliners to give back the legroom and hip room and usable toilets that they are racing each other to confiscate today.

Do we really need a clean sheet all new design to give back to passengers what has been ill advisedly taken away from them in recent times?

It seems obvious reading between the lines of official statements from Boeing that it doesn’t really know what the airlines want from a 797, and when it comes to product planning it is also obvious that some airline managements can’t think past the next few years in terms of financial goals and regard what might happen in 2025 as being irrelevant to their ambitions.

Paris 2019 is probably much closer than any definitive, binding decision as to what, if anything a 797 will be.

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