Rumours rumble over 787-3 resurrection

Boeing had many years back now, a version in offer of the 787 family that was of some interest to airlines like ANA.

The 787-3 was basically no different externally to a 787-8, but with a down rated engine and high density configuration. This type of aircraft is ideal for Japan’s domestic market but few others were interested and even ANA dropped out.

In recent days several rumours have surfaced suggesting Boeing are looking at revisiting the concept. Having ditched the 797-X/NMA programme, they’ve left the field for 757 replacements to Airbus and the A321neo variants.

Reasons for Boeing to go down this path are valid – to a point. It needs to extend the lifespan of the 787 range, which at planned build rates will have zero aircraft left to build by the end of 2023. The company needs to get 120+ orders a year to keep it going.

There is undoubtedly a market for a high density shorter range aircraft capable of carrying 280-330 passengers, but is it one than can pay the price of a 787, which isn’t a cheap aircraft to build? The answer is no.

The 787 also has other issues. A twin aisle aircraft requires a different approach to handling at airports – and is a lot more expensive to manage than a single aisle. To cost conscious airlines that’s not acceptable either.

Like it or not the trend is to more smaller aircraft and the 787 just doesn’t fit that bill. While a variant like this might sell 200 aircraft in the right market – which as a derivative is probably worth doing, it’s not going to compete in the one market it needs to most – the 757 single aisle medium range replacement market. And it certainly isn’t the way to compete in the new market the A321XLR is already carving out.

Would I be surprised if Boeing looked at extending the life of the 787 like this? No. Will it compete with the A321? No. Chances of it happening? Minimal.