A Boeing 757 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport. Boeing is considering the launch of a new model, informally known as the 797, to effectively replace the 757, which is no longer in production. (BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons)

A Boeing 757 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport. Boeing is considering the launch of a new model, informally known as the 797, to effectively replace the 757, which is no longer in production. (BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons)

What will the 797 look like — and will Boeing even build it?

The company’s consideration of an all-new airplane was all the buzz at an aerospace conference this week.

LYNNWOOD — Boeing’s vice president of commercial airplane sales, Randy Tinseth, politely declined this week to reveal the status of the company’s possible new “middle-market” airplane, unofficially dubbed the 797.

“Why wait until the Paris Air Show in June when you can reveal it at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood?” asked a participant. That got a big laugh.

Tinseth’s reply was the standard company line: Boeing has “a little bit more work to do. … Our engineers are looking at this. We’re working closely with customers.”

The alliance’s four-day event, which drew hundreds of aerospace suppliers, manufacturers and analysts, focused on the art of boosting productivity while strengthening the bottom line.

But the buzz was all about the 797.

One aisle or two?

Where will it be built?

Will it be built?

There’s no consensus on what the plane might look like or if Boeing will even launch the project.

“They’ll probably do it,” said Richard Aboulafia, a prominent aerospace analyst and vice president of the Teal Group. But Aboulafia put the probability at just 65 percent.

Aboulafia later said that his confidence level has “diminished a bit.”

“The company continues to ramp up its returns to shareholders, while delaying this project,” Aboulafia said. “That adds a bit more uncertainty. But most likely, the delay is just the problems of getting the production and operating economics right.”

Then there was speculation as to whether the 797 would emerge from the drawing board as a single-aisle or twin-aisle aircraft.

Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group.

Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group.

A twin-aisle 797 could cannibalize sales of the company’s 787 twin-aisle — a best seller, Aboulafia said.

Plus, sales of twin aisles, once hot, are now “flat” in a crowded market, Aboulafia said.

For the 797 to be an attractive buy for airlines, the price tag would have to be in the $70 million to $80 million range, said Kevin Michaels, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory, a Michigan-based consulting firm.

To achieve that price point, Boeing has “to get the cost of the twin-aisle in line with a single-aisle,” Aboulafia said.

Michaels offered a surprise prediction — that the 797 could, in fact, be a two-fer.

“I think we’re going to see two airplanes out of this,” Michaels said.

“They’ll work the bugs out on a twin-aisle 797, and then announce a new single-aisle,” he said.

“They can’t open the door for Airbus,” he added, referring to the Airbus A321, a single-aisle aircraft, and the A330, a twin-aisle.

Suppliers, except for the engine companies, have been kept at “arms’ length” on this one, Michaels said.

One reason, of course, is that Boeing doesn’t want to tip its hand to rival Airbus. Airbus expects future versions of its narrow-body A321 and wide-body A330 jets could nicely fill the “mid-market” niche at a lower cost than what Boeing could offer.

The new airplane would fit somewhere between the largest 737 and the smallest 787, with a capacity comparable to the old Renton-built 757, which was discontinued in 2005 but is still widely flown. With 200 to 270 seats and a range of about 5,000 nautical miles, the 797 would fill a narrow void.

Boeing anticipates the airline industry would need from 4,000 to 5,000 of these mid-market airplanes over the next two decades.

Expanded routes in Asia and China and the continued growth in air travel are fueling demand.

“No matter what happens in the economy, people really want to fly,” Aboulafia said.

Over the next two decades, the airline industry will need about 40,000 new passenger jets and freighters valued at more than $6 trillion, according to market studies by Boeing and Airbus.

Demand for medium-size aircraft that can accommodate up to 300 passengers — which is where the 797 would fit — is pegged at about 5,000 and valued at roughly $1.5 trillion.

Small aircraft, capable of carrying 100 to 230 passengers, will claim the largest share — about 25,000 airplanes. The segment will represent about 54 percent of value, according to Airbus’ 2018 Global Market Forecast.

The remainder, large and extra-large aircraft, represent the smallest share and about $1.2 trillion of value.

Asia and the Pacific will account for more than 40 percent of deliveries, followed by North American and Europe for a combined 35 percent.

The expectation is that Boeing will announce its intentions this year at the Paris Air Show in June — or not.

Said Aboulafia: “If it doesn’t happen this year, I don’t think it will happen.”

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

An access road leads into plot of land located in north Darrington that could potentially be used to build a 30-acre Wood Innovation Center, which will house CLT manufacturing and modular building companies on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Darrington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$6 million grant is green light for Darrington timber center

The Darrington Wood Innovation Center is set to become a reality — bringing roughly 150 jobs with it.

Boeing 777 makes emergency landing in Moscow

The plane landed safely and no one was injured.

FILE- In this Oct. 19, 2015, file photo, an airplane flies over a sign at Boeing's newly expanded 737 delivery center at Boeing Field in Seattle. Federal regulators have imposed $5.4 million in civil penalties against Boeing on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, for violating terms of a $12 million settlement in 2015, and the aircraft maker has agreed to pay another $1.21 million to settle two current enforcement cases. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing will pay $6.6 million to settle FAA allegations

The company failed to put adequate priority on complying with regulations.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, a United Airlines Boeing 737 Max airplane takes off in the rain, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. Federal auditors are issuing fresh criticism of the government agency that approved the Boeing 737 Max. The Transportation Department's inspector general said Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, that the Federal Aviation Administration must improve its process for certifying new planes.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Federal watchdog blasts FAA over certification of Boeing jet

It will take five years to finish making the Transportation Department’s 14 recommended changes.

Hamburger cheese with beef, salad, tomato and ham isolated on white background.
You voted: The best hamburger in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people still have their favorites.

Boeing’s decorated 787 Dreamliner on display at a celebration for the Boeing Employees Community Fund last year at the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo. (Janice Podsada / Herald file)
Boeing’s deepening 787 inspections risk longer delays

The company will use freed-up space in Everett to inspect and repair the plane’s tiny imperfections.

Barre3 owner Gina Drake leads an exercise class in the Red Barn at 5th Ave S and Maple Street on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2020 in Edmonds, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Barre3 teaches a fitness trifecta for balance during COVID-19

The full-body workouts combine strength conditioning, cardio and mindfulness to help you feel balanced.

In this image taken from video, the engine of United Airlines Flight 328 is on fire after after experiencing "a right-engine failure" shortly after takeoff from Denver International Airport, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Denver, Colo. The Boeing 777 landed safely and none of the passengers or crew onboard were hurt. (Chad Schnell via AP)
Metal fatigue seen as trigger for Boeing 777 engine failure

A preliminary investigation suggested a crack that grew gradually over time prompted the failure.

Boeing 757 flying to Seattle makes emergency landing

The 16-year-old jetliner was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.

This Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 photo provided by Hayden Smith shows United Airlines Flight 328 approaching Denver International Airport, after experiencing "a right-engine failure" shortly after takeoff from Denver. Federal regulators are investigating what caused a catastrophic engine failure on the plane that rained debris on Denver suburbs as the aircraft made an emergency landing. Authorities said nobody aboard or on the ground was hurt despite large pieces of the engine casing that narrowly missed homes below. (Hayden Smith via AP)
Boeing: 777s with engine that blew apart should be grounded

Video showed the engine fully engulfed in flames as the plane flew through the air.

A portion of the site of the proposed Lake Stevens Costco at the intersection of Highway 9 (right) and South Lake Stevens Road (below, out of view). (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Legal battle stalls Costco’s planned store in Lake Stevens

“We intend to keep them in court until they get tired of us and go away,” an opponent of the project said.

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2020, file photo a Boeing 777X airplane takes off on its first flight with the Olympic Mountains in the background at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Boeing is reporting another huge loss, this one because of a setback to its 777X widebody jetliner. Boeing said Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, it lost $8.4 billion in the fourth quarter on weaker demand for planes during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing says 2 directors are leaving as board faces scrutiny

Arthur Collins Jr. and Susan Schwab won’t stand for reelection at the shareholder meeting in April.