The chance of seeing the hypothetical Boeing 797 in the skies will still be a long time coming. Despite the difficulties in competing with Airbus, Boeing is in no hurry to bring a completely new aircraft to market.
That’s what Dave Calhoun, CEO of airframer, explained during a conference in the US. According to Boeing’s chief executive, the company’s next passenger plane will be developed through digital tools, which should shorten the program’s time and reduce its costs.
The issue, according to Calhoun, is that the technology is not yet mature enough to develop a complex aircraft like a jetliner. Currently, the company already uses this capability in programs such as the T-7A Red Hawk, a training jet jointly produced with Saab for the US Air Force.
It will take “at least a couple of years before I’m confident that those tools are tested and mature enough to implement on the next airplane,” Calhoun said.
NMA on hold
For Boeing, a new commercial aircraft will need to be a significant leap in technology to offset the huge costs. This will require a revolution in engines, capable of generating operating savings of 20% to 25% compared to current aircraft, but this is not yet on the horizon.
Boeing came close to launching the alleged 797, internally called the New Mid-market Aircraft (NMA) in 2018, a model that would have a slightly larger wide fuselage than current single-aisle jets. Soon after, problems with the 737 MAX surfaced, putting the project on hold.
Despite the downside for Airbus, particularly in relation to the A320neo family, Calhoun didn’t seem worried. The focus, according to him, is to handle the production of the 737 MAX while looking for interested parties for the 240 planes that are parked waiting for customers.
Hope in the long-haul market is in the return of deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner and the debut of the 777X, a widebody that has no rivals, according to Boeing.