FINALLY, AN AIRCRAFT – THE 797 – THAT ALL PASSENGERS WILL LOVE
By Geoffrey Thomas
Finally, with Boeing’s proposed Boeing 797 there will be an aircraft that all passengers are going to love.
The aerospace giant is expected to launch what will be called the 797 at this years Farnborough Air Show in July and it will have economy seating of just 2-3-2 with huge overhead luggage bins.
The economy seat squeeze will finally be over! The 797 will be a revolutionary aircraft made of composite material like the 787 and it will be able to economically connect hundreds of new non-stop routes between smaller cities.
Recently Boeing moved one of its top engineers Terry Beezhold, to the program signalling that it is very serious about the aircraft.
Mr. Beezhold has had lead roles in the 787 and was project engineer on the ultra-long-range 777X, which will fly next year. The Boeing 797 will seat between 220 and 270 passengers and fly for about 10 to 11 hours only.
But the concept is not new. Both Boeing and McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) tried to interest airlines in the concept in the 1980s but couldn’t get enough takers at the time.
McDonnell Douglas concept for a 2-2-2 economy class aircraft in 1980. It was called the ATMR and later the DC-11. Fast forward to today and airline interest is sky-high as passenger complaints soar over cramped seating.
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.
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 250-350 seat 787 which has been designed for much longer distances and thus carries a great deal of extra structural weight to carry the fuel required.
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.
Boeing is well advanced in closing the business case and has discussed the aircraft with 57 airlines and the reaction has been enthusiastic.
Boeing hopes to have first flight and certification in 2024 with delivery to airlines early in 2025.
The 797 will have unique oval-shaped fuselage – only possible with composite structure – and will 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.