There’s a growing consensus from airlines, lessors, and market analysts, that the 797X concept cannot be just one aircraft.
The demands from airlines are that they want one that’s long-range, medium capacity, but ultra efficient with a low-cost per seat kilometre. On the other side are those who want shorter range, high seat capacity and improved efficiency, especially in Asian markets.
That amounts to two quite different aircraft, indeed there’s even the suggestion that it’s the 737 single aisle replacement that should better fit the second choice. A long version of a potential single aisle, as the first in a new family is entirely feasible. The 737 has pretty much maxed out at this point in its long life cycle.
However the larger, longer range aircraft that’s smaller than a 788 but bigger than a 737-10, with the range and seating to make it viable is quite a separate project.
Either way Boeing faces a number of challenges, not least which one to build first. The company has made it plain that whatever it builds needs to enter service in 2025, and a build decision must happen in early 2020.
The two type concept has some very powerful supporters – leasing companies are said to be at the forefront of the pressure to take that route.
They’re also backed up by Steven Udvar-Hazy, probably the most influential aviation analyst in the world, credited with persuading Airbus on how to approach the A350.
While airlines like Qatar think the whole concept a mistake, clearly others, not least of which is Delta, want it as soon as possible.
Boeing are said to be taking a very careful approach to how this project is managed and produced. They don’t want another 787 with costly delays and years behind schedule.
This time while some new materials and technologies will be needed, they want every supplier and partner involved totally on board and fully cognisant about their abilities, commitment and position in the programme. Concrete deliverables, not empty promises and delays are expected this time, with proven, quality functions and build from day one.
Meanwhile you’ve got to wonder what Airbus will do – other than the A350 rolling development they have no new aircraft design in progress….