There are so many unknowns about the Boeing 797 at this point, so I’ve decided to take on the challenge of designing it for myself. How hard can it be, right?

I actually created the following video for my SANspotter brand, but ultimately figured that it makes more sense to be posted here instead:

The current state of the Boeing 797

We all know that the 797 is coming. It literally has to, as Boeing needs to keep pushing the business forward and provide airlines with increasingly efficient airplanes.

I’d also suspect they’re getting slightly annoyed watching Airbus dominate them in nearly every category at the moment. As we all know, nothing drives motivation and innovation more than being laughed at by someone with a French accent.

Boeing’s ultimate plan for the 797

Prior to January 2020, Boeing’s plan for the 797 was for it be a 757/767 sized aircraft situated in their lineup smack dab between the 737 and the 787.

Airlines all over the world had a definite need for a Boeing 757 replacement (as the Airbus A321neo has proved), and it was all going great until, well…pandemic.

Now, at the time of this writing, that need has evaporated and the 797 program has been paused. Not only that, Boeing has stated that they will be starting over (from scratch) once the project is greenlit again.

The question is:

  • What purpose is the 797 likely to serve?
  • More specifically, what will it actually look like?

Because I can draw better than I can play aerospace CEO, I fired up Adobe Illustrator and created a mock-up of what the new design could look like:

Boeing 797 design concept
Behold the SANspotter Air 797 (FYI, SANspotter is my other online brand). Of course I realize this dark gray livery is going to fade terribly in the sun, but…I don’t care. I’m the CEO, and I’m going to run my airline into the ground any way I want!

Oh, and if anyone at Boeing is watching (and you like what you see), I totally don’t mind if you steal my design. Just as long as SANspotter Airways gets first dibs and 80% off the first batch of 797s of course.

What purpose will the 797 serve?

In my opinion, the 797 needs to be the 737 replacement – and not a medium-sized aircraft that is just slightly smaller than the 787.

After all, the 737 is over 60 years old at this point, and Boeing has done all they can with it. 737-sized aircraft are (and will continue to be) the best selling segment in commercial aviation. Time spent dinking around on anything else is stupid.

Anyway, that’s not to say that the 797 couldn’t be modular in nature to fit a variety of uses.

What if the 797 was designed to fill the role of both the 737 AND the 757? Do we really need two different aircraft types to do this?

SANspotter boeing 797
What I’ve illustrated here is a larger-sized variant of the 797. Perhaps a 797-9 (or -10).

Boeing has already started down this path by offering so many variants of the 737, and now there seems to be a variant for nearly any situation.

Of course, being a 60 year old platform, the limits have been hit and they now have the opportunity to learn from those limitations and build a far more capable (and versatile) aircraft from the ground up.

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The design of the 797 will be based on the 787 (IMHO)

If I were a betting man – and I must be considering that I chose to do the work of the entire Boeing design and development team in a single afternoon – I’m willing to bet that the design of the Boeing 797 will be based on the existing 787.

The fuselage

I’d suspect that the fuselage will be taken directly from the 787 platform, from nose to tail, with few modifications other than scale.

Boeing 797 fuselage
How much you wanna bet that the fuselage is gonna look like a thinner (and shorter) 787?

And again, to any Boeing executives watching, please feel free to take notes. Together, we can make this happen…

The wings

As far as the wings go, I’d also suspect that it’s going to be based on the 787 design as well. However, there will be less of a need for overall surface area and rake, which will give it a slightly different appearance.

This means overall less wing flex while in flight, and…wait. Am I actually attempting to talk intelligently about aerospace aerodynamics?

Boeing 797 wing design
My apologies to #wingflexnation, but…the Boeing 797 wing won’t likely be as bendy.

The little details

If you’ve made it this far, I’d suspect that you’re a bit miffed that what I’m proposing for the 797 is yet another twin-engine design that looks a lot like every other aircraft flying around at the moment.

Trust me. As much as I’d love to see something wildly different, Boeing needs to hit a home run with the 797. That being said, let’s take a look at some of the details which might make the 797 unique:

The vertical stabilizer

The vertical stabilizer will likely be a very different design than what is on the 787, since it won’t need to do as much for the smaller 797. It’ll be shorter, feature a smaller rudder, and…yeah. I’m totally pulling ideas out of my rear end here.

Boeing 797 vertical stabilizer
The Boeing 797 vertical stabilizer. No! It’s not exactly like the one found on the 787 (but it’s close).

Pretending to sound like you know that you’re talking about when you really don’t is one of the first signs of heat stroke you know…

The landing gear

Continuing on making wild and crazy guesses is the fact that the landing gear will be relatively tall to allow for a variety of engine types.

Boeing 797 landing gear
The 797 landing gear will likely be taller than what is currently on the 737.

This is one of the main problems with the 737, and it’s not hard to imagine that Boeing hasn’t learned a thing or two from that mistake.

The engines

Speaking of engines, my only prediction here is that they will be relatively simple in design and NOT feature the iconic angular chevrons featured on the 787.

Boeing 797 engines
Don’t expect to see any ground-breaking design elements on the engine for the 797. It’ll probably be round. With a big hole in the front. Just like every other modern commercial aircraft engine…

It’s just a hunch, considering the main purpose of those triangular nibs was noise reduction. The smaller 797 engines (whatever they are) will likely be very quiet anyway.

When are we likely to see the first real 797 design?

With the current state of air travel, my guess is that we are 5-7 years away from seeing anything official from Boeing regarding the 797. They’ve currently got their hands full with the 777X program, and beyond that, demand for new airplanes is virtually nonexistent.

Boeing 797 design strategy
Hopefully Boeing’s design strategy for the 797 will be better than my strategy for creating a livery that’s most likely to fade within a year or two…

I can’t imagine that we’ll see the 797 fly before 2030, but (as shocking as it may sound) I’ve been wrong before. That said, my Boeing 797 template is available for download if you want to start working on some liveries of your own.

What are your thoughts?

Please let me know in the comment section down below if you think I’m totally off-base here. Everything I discussed in this article was just my own thoughts and options, but I’d love to know yours! If you like this sort of thing, I also created a Boeing 727-300 concept that was a bit more aggressive than this.

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14 Comments

    1. I like that idea! Aircraft design is rather boring these days, and I’d love to see the T-tails return.

  1. I took that same desert drive but gave up pondering the Boeing 797.
    A far more interesting mental exercise is imagining a Boeing 808.
    Something as revolutionary as the 707 was in 1957.

    We’re talking a brand new zero pollution power plant with supersonic speeds.
    Ground based Magnetic Catapult runways with electric-jet augmentation to an apogee in the stratosphere, then gliding down on a wing body anywhere in the world in less than 3 hours.

    My Crystal Ball reveals no Pan Am, no Boeing … not even NASA.

    I see Tesla Aerospace emerging in the mist.

  2. Great article, Scott. A lot of us have been waiting and waiting for Boeing to get on with the 757 and 767 replacements. I’m curious though that you think that the B797 or next new airplane from Boeing should be the 737’s replacement. I will agree that the 737 needs replacing too, but with the MAXs still fresh on the assembly line Boeing probably won’t touch it for another decade. Also, you probably spot on with your rendition of the b797 exterior, but what about the interior. My thinking is that the new aircraft would have a single aisle and 3-3 seating, but what of the cabin width. Boeing has got to do better than the A320 family cabin width of 146 inches. A wider aisle and seats all around would greatly improve the aircraft’s appeal to the flying masses.

    1. I totally agree Sam! It’s likely to be the 737 replacement with a 3-3 cabin layout, but I’ve been wrong enough times before to know that it’s unwise to make any firm predictions. Ha!

  3. Shortening the 787 fuselage might actually require you to *increase* the size of the 787 vertical stabilizer, due to the reduced moment arm. The A318 is actually the tallest of the A320-series for this reason.

    1. Interesting – I always wondered why the A318 vertical stabilizer was taller than the others. Good suggestion!

  4. This is a good-looking airplane, although if it were basd on the 787, I think the name would be something like 787SR or maybe they’ll bring back the 787-3. A 797 would have to be a clean-sheet design.*
    Whatever it looks like, I agree that it would have to be flexible enough to replace the 737 & 757 (With the 757’s performance, of course). It would also be cool if it were a 2-3-2 configured widebody for more comfort. Although maybe the 737 replacement variant would have to be really stubby.
    Another option is to do like they did with the 757 & 767: make one a narrowbody, and another one a widebody (I know it’s not apples to apples, but it’s a similar situation).
    What needs to happen first though, it’s that the corporate culture and management at Boeing have to change. They need to bring back a focus on making good planes, not on the bottom line. Engineers and the engineering spirit need to run the company, not bean counters. Especially if the 797 should be a more expensive clean-sheet design than a cheaper 787 variant. And this will be a lengthy process. Sorry for the rant, but it’s true.

    *But then again, the 707, 727, and 737 had different purposes, and they all had very similar fuselages & technology and of course the same nose & cross-section (and the 757 also had the 707 cross section).

    Btw, great job with the livery!

    1. Great insights Peter! Yeah, I mostly agree with you about the 797 needing to be an all new airframe. All I really did here was make a variant of the 787, which likely isn’t the best way forward.

  5. Hi Scott! Great looking plane, But I do think it will turn out to be a Widebody, kind of like the width of the 767,
    And I do actually think that it will be based of the 787 like you stated.
    And I also think that it will have a double set of gear, instead of one, because the Narrowbody 757 has a double set.
    Even as a Widebody I think it could still be foucused as a 737 replacement with a lower end ~220 seat
    2-3-2 seating, slightly more than a 737 max 10.
    and the largest 797 would have around ~270 seat in a normal config.

    1. Thanks Ryan! Yeah, I’d love to see a smaller version aimed towards being a 737 MAX 10 replacement. Time will tell!

    1. I’d love for that to happen! The pessimist in me thinks that it won’t though (considering how many airlines are getting rid of their A380s). It’s just too much airplane for most routes.

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