Friday, January 12, 2018

Boeing 797/NMA - my analysis


Since 2015, numerous airlines across the world especially the three major U.S. carriers i.e. Delta, American and United along with a few European/UK ones have requested Boeing to produce a true successor to the ultra popular Boeing 757 which is capable of transporting 180-200 passengers across the Atlantic Ocean.

Currently, the only modern option available in the market is the Airbus A321NEOLR (with 2 ACT) but that aircraft under realistic operating conditions can fly a maximum of 7 hours 30 minutes nonstop with 160 or 170 passengers in a premium two class configuration i.e. flat beds in business class and 32 inch seat pitch in economy.

The above limitations were not suitable enough for the U.S. carriers who want preferably an aircraft that can fly 8.5-9.5 hours nonstop with 210-240 passengers on board in a two class layout.

In Q3 2017, Boeing finally announced that it has started forming a dedicated team to develop this new aircraft variant which is currently named “NMA – New Mid Model Aircraft” but majority of aviation personnel refer to it as the Boeing 797.

Operational Specifications:

Thus far, the information released by Boeing state that the new aircraft is expected to be a twin aisle airplane which would be offered in two variants. Its size is expected to be like the Boeing 767-200 and Boeing 767-300.

The capacity on board would be 225 to 260 passengers whilst the maximum flying range capability is 9,200KM for the smaller variant and 8,500KM for the larger variant. However realistically when analyzing aircraft flying range abilities, one should (to be on the safe side) penalize it by -25% at least for EU/USA bases and -30% for GCC bases (due to the warmer climate).

Aircraft configuration options:

Some airlines will operate the B797 in a premium dual class layout with flat beds in business class and with 31-32 seat pitch in economy. Others would configure it in a regional layout with a semi reclining business class seat which is seen on current A320/B737NGs (38-42 inch seat pitch). The LCCs (low cost carriers) would naturally configure theirs in an all economy class layout with 30 inch seat pitch.

The actual configuration possibilities for network carriers in a two class configuration are outlined below

Total Seats
Option 1
Flat beds in J class
Option 2
Flat beds in J class
Option 3
Flat beds in J class
Option 4
Regional J class seat
Option 5
Regional J class seat
Option 6
Regional J class seat
Option 7
All Y class cabin

·         Seat pitch with J class flat beds is 60-65 inches

·         Seat pitch with regional J class seat is 38-42 inches

·         Flat bed J class cabin layout will be 1-2-1

·         Regional J class cabin layout will be 2-2-2

·         Economy class (Y) cabin layout will be 2-3-2 for all with 32 inches seat pitch

With regards to cargo, the B797 is expected to uplift between 7-8 tons of cargo maximum.

Costs of operation

In order to be safe, since this aircraft is sized between the A321 and Boeing 787-8, the assumed costs of operations per block hour taken into account shall be the median of the A321 and B788 which is indicated in the table below

Costs per Hour $
 B797 $
 Total Operational Costs
 Fixed Costs
 Total Direct Operational Costs
 Net Total Cost Per Block Hour

·         Fuel cost used is as of Q2 2017 i.e. US$ 52 per barrel

·         Average daily utilization is 14 hours

·         Above costs are an average for GCC region only

Realistic flying range:

Indicated below are realistic flying range graphs of the proposed Boeing 797 departing from major hub airports across the globe (the bright colored path is the flying range capability)


·         Eastbound up to DKR/BCN/FRA

·         Southbound up to Northern Brazil

·         Westbound it can easily operate to LAX/SFO and Alaska

From BKK

·         Eastbound up to BNE

·         Westbound up to AMM

·         Southbound up to MRU/PER

From DOH

·         Eastbound up to HKG/PEK

·         Westbound up to ACC/CMN/LIS

·         Southbound up to JNB

From DEL

·         Eastbound up to NRT/KIX

·         Westbound up to MAN/AMS/CDG

·         Southbound up to MRU/DAR

From DXB

·         Eastbound up to HKG/TSN/PEK

·         Westbound up to DUB/CMN/ACC

·         Southbound up to HRE/MRU

From LHR:

·         Westbound up to IAD/CLT as ORD is on the border line

·         Southbound up to LBV/ADD

·         Eastbound up to KHI/LHE/ALA

From CDG:

·         Westbound up to IAD

·         Southbound up to FIH

·         Eastbound up to ISB/LHE

From MIA:

·         Eastbound up to KEF but not any other EU/UK city

·         Westbound up to ANC

·         Southbound up to SCL/GIG/GRU

From KWI:

·         Eastbound up to PEK/KUL

·         Westbound up to DUB/CMN

·         Southbound up to HRE

From PEK:

·         Eastbound up to Alaska

·         Westbound up to KWI/DMM

·         Southbound up to DRW/MLE/DPS

From IST:

·         Eastbound up to CTU

·         Westbound up to Greenland

·         Southbound up to DAR/MLE

From LOS:

·         Eastbound up to MCT/IKA

·         Westbound up to GIG/GRU

·         Northbound up to KEF/HEL

From ADD:

·         Westbound up to DKR

·         Eastbound up to CCU/DAC

·         Northbound up to BRU/CPH/MAN

From HKG:

·         Westbound up to IKA/DXB

·         Southbound up to PER/CNS

From KUL:

·         Westbound up to RUH/IKA

·         Southbound up to SYD/MEL

From JED:

·         Westbound up to Iceland

·         Southbound up to JNB

·         Eastbound up to CGP

From IKA:

·         Westbound up to CMN/Iceland

·         Eastbound up to HKG/PEK

·         Southbound up to KUL/MRU

From FRA:

·         Westbound up to YUL/BOS

·         Eastbound up to DEL/LHE/ISB

·         Southbound up to NBO/FIH

From FCO:

·         Westbound can only fly to YHZ in North America

·         Eastbound up to DEL/LHE

·         Southbound up to NBO/DAR

From YYZ:

·         Westbound it can cover everything in US/CAN except HNL

·         Southbound till UIO

·         Eastbound till LIS/MAD/CMN

From YVR:

·         Westbound till HNL

·         Southbound till PTY/MBJ/KIN

·         Eastbound till KEF only and not any other city in EU/UK

From LAX:

·         Westbound till Hawaii

·         Eastbound covers entire U.S Eastcoast and Caribbean

·         Southbound till UIO/BOG

From DFW:

·         Westbound up to HNL

·         Eastbound up to KEF

·         Southbound up to LIM

From ATL:

·         Westbound up to ANC

·         Southbound up to LIM

·         Eastbound up to DUB/SNN

From ORD:

·         Eastbound up to MAN/LHR

·         Southbound up to LIM

·         Westbound up to ANC whilst Hawaii is not possible

From MAA:

·         Westbound up to IST/CAI

·         Eastbound up to ICN

·         Southbound up to PER

From KHI:

·         Westbound up to LHR

·         Eastbound up to ICN

·         Southbound up to CGK

Which airlines should order the Boeing 797?

Turkish Airlines

·         Ideal aircraft to use on majority of its African flights that exceed 5 hours flying time especially those that see heavy excess baggage demand such as LOS, ABV, DLA, ACC, ABJ, FIH, NBO and ADD. This will enable it to operate more efficiently to African cities where currently it uses B739ERs with a payload restriction.

·         Upgrade popular A321/B739 operated flights to metro European cities to B797 where there is also cargo demand to be extracted such as MXP, AMS, CPH, OSL, BRU, DUS and ZRH.

·         Take advantage of its superior operating economics versus the A330 and use it instead of the latter to KHI, KTM + it can be used to launch new routes such as BLR and MAA.

American Airlines

·         The perfect aircraft to use on popular multiple daily baggage + cargo intensive Central/South American routes out of its MIA hub instead of the B738 or A321.

·         Even out of its DFW hub, all of Central America + half of South America can be easily covered by the B797.

·         From its JFK hub, it can make certain EU destinations year round with minimal risk versus seasonal only such as BCN, MAN, DUB, MAD and Scandinavia. 

·         Out of the ORD hub, routes that AA can make year round are DUB and MAN as well operate more efficiently during winter season on high demand select Caribbean leisure destinations.

·         Right sized aircraft for pax + cargo on domestic transcontinental flights from JFK/MIA/ORD to LAX, SFO, LAS and SJC as there would be no payload issues what so ever

Thai Airways

·         Regional routes within a 6 hour flying radius that the A320 is too small for or the A333/B772 too large for; especially on routes served multiple daily which don’t require an A333 during off peak demand time.

·         Open new medium haul routes with minimal costs risks such as those in India, ALA, Japan, China, South Korea, MRU, MLE and TAS.

·         Perfectly sized aircraft to open new routes from Phuket (HKT) within the ASEAN region especially in high demand IATA winter season where yields are also above average.


·         The perfect aircraft size for it to operate efficiently to selected Middle East and African destinations as well as re-launch previously suspended routes in Pakistan, Africa and Central Asia.

·         New routes that are ideally suited for LH to launch using a 202 seater version include FIH, NBO, LHE, ACC, ISB as well downgrade certain destinations such as ABV, PHC, SSG, NBO, ALA and ADD.

Jet Airways and Air India

·         Slots at India’s 3 main metro airports i.e. BOM, DEL and MAA are getting increasingly difficult to obtain and as a result, airlines need to maximize the number of seats they can offer per flight especially during peak hours for domestic and international travel. For domestic India, departures from BOM, DEL, MAA, HYD and BLR between 0700-0900 and 1700-1900 are ultra peak with higher yielding RBD fares being sold in both J and Y class cabins.

·         For the above mentioned timings, using the B797 is preferred due to the incremental capacity it offers versus the B738s and A320s being used + it can fly from anywhere in India to the Middle East GCC region without any payload issues which neither the A321NEO nor the B737MAX can lay claim to. This is particularly relevant on many JED-India sectors + selected RUH-South India sectors as this market segment is also baggage heavy thus requiring a medium sized aircraft to be able to uplift all the excess cargo.

·         Being that India-GCC is more of a volume based market segment with low yields predominantly, it is best to operate an aircraft that can offer the most number of seats + cargo space at a cost of a narrow body aircraft almost which the B797 does so adequately.

·         For 9W especially, this aircraft is perfectly suited to open up new route opportunities such as BOM/DEL-MRU/PEK/ICN/PVG/NRT/CAN/NBO/DAR if suitable slots can be obtained.

·         For AI, this aircraft’s capacity and economics is ideal to launch new nonstop flights from MAA/HYD to KWI, JED, RUH, DOH and DXB.

·         If AI really want to think ‘outside the box’ aggressively with their Air India Express subsidiary as the Indian market demand to the GCC continues to grow rapidly, it is worth analyzing replacing the entire B738 fleet with the B797 due to the following commercial reasons:
a) No payload issues what so ever operating to any Middle Eastern city from anywhere in India since the current B738 cant perform this from South India to RUH/JED especially

b) Can carry 66 more passengers (252 B797 vs 186 on B738) + 3-4 tons more cargo so in essence +35% more pax capacity + nearly double the belly cargo of a B738  

Ethiopian Airlines

·         ET is one of the few airlines who has already officially commented that if the B797/NMA gets launched it will seriously contemplate placing an order for between 10-20 units as a launch customer.

·         This aircraft for ET is rightly sized to operate a broad range of its flights to Europe, Africa, Middle East and India where the 270 seater B788 is too big and costlier.

·         Many EU routes which have a tag on service as they cannot be sustained on their own currently with a 270 seater aircraft can however manage with a 202 seater (20J+182Y).

·         Many African routes currently flown with a high seat factor on the B738 which are also baggage heavy can be upgraded to the B797 + on these medium haul African flights, premium class passengers can enjoy a flat bed product rather than a regional one currently on board the B738.

·         Routes of ET’s currently that are suited for the 202 seater B797 include DLA, ABV, LBV, FIH, BZV, DXB, JED, DEL, MUC, BRU, MAD, BCN, VIE, ARN, MXP, TLV, CPT, LAD + future nonstop 4 weekly flights to MAN.

Qatar Airways

·         Best aircraft to use (capacity and range wise) in 2025 for upgrading all current A320/A321 operated flights to Europe, KTM and Africa especially the latter where payload issues arise using the narrow bodied aircraft due to high excess baggage.

·         Enables all of Europe and a vast majority of Africa + SE Asia to be operated with a full payload.

·         Right sized aircraft to operate to the secondary Thai cities that it recently launched services to instead of the larger A332s/B788s.

Delta Airlines

·         For transcontinental domestic flights, just like stated earlier for AA, the B797 is the best aircraft for DL too to use out of its JFK + BOS hubs to LAX, SFO and SEA + from SEA to IAD + ATL.

·         The excellent economics of the plane would allow it to convert some trans-atlantic routes to UK, Ireland and Scandinavia to year round.

·         Ideally suited for ATL/JFK-Mexico/Central America/Caribbean especially during winter season when both demand + baggage demand is high.

Air Canada

·         Good plane to use from YYZ to SFO/LAX instead of the A320/A321

·         Regional configuration (without flat bed) of 220-228 seats perfectly suited for selected Central America/Caribbean routes which are operated by mainline B763ERs

·         The aircraft is the right size to operate winter season routes to EU such as DUB, AMS and CPH instead of a more costlier wide body especially during the lean periods of 01NOV-10DEC and 20JAN-30MAY.

·         Can open up new transcontinental cross border routes such as YVR-MIA/MCO/IAD nonstop, winter seasonal YVR/YYC-Caribbean nonstop flights  

Oman Air

·         Ideal aircraft from a pax + cargo stand point to use on a majority of its multiple daily India flights + CMB + LHE as it would gain 45 additional seats in a regional layout versus the B739 + 4-5 tons more cargo space to sell

·         Good economics would enable suspended routes such as DAC, SIN and CGP to be re launched without any payload issues + without incurring higher operational costs of a B787/A330


·         Best aircraft to use on medium haul Aussie domestic routes such as PER-BNE/SYD/MEL + on the popular SYD-MEL-SYD route during peak morning and evening times in particular where demand exceeds supply of seats available between MON-FRI especially

·         Low risk aircraft to launch new international Asian flights from PER/BNE/MEL/SYD to KUL/CGK/SIN/DPS

United Airlines

·         Best suited to replace the B757 on multiple daily transcontinental domestic flights from EWR and IAD to LAX/SFO

·         Ideal aircraft too to replace the B757 from EWR to Central America/Mexico and Caribbean region

·         The right sized aircraft to boost transatlantic services on a seasonal basis from IAD + EWR + can enable selected EU destinations served from these 2 hubs to become year round

·         Can replace the B763ER too on many EU routes on a year round basis thus saving a lot on operating costs


·         The B797 can operate from LHE/ISB/KHI to all of Western Europe + all of SE Asia except Japan nonstop

·         If this airplane was launched in 2015, it would have been the perfect replacement aircraft for PIA’s Airbus A310 fleet and deployed on EU + Far East + selected GCC routes

·         Currently, PIA’s wide body fleet is revolving around the B777 family only which is too big of an aircraft to operate year round to mainland EU (CPH/OSL/CDG/MXP) + to SE Asia

·         The smaller sized B797 with its cheaper costs would enable it to raise the number of frequencies from the current archaic twice weekly services to CPH/OSL/MXP/CDG/PEK/NRT each respectively to something more commercially viable + would enable them to open new Asian routes from LHE and KHI to feed the incremental EU deployed capacity provided the schedules allows for decent two way connectivity  

·         A320s due to their smaller capacity cannot make money operating from PAK to KSA/GCC whilst the B797 has more potential to do so with its greater on board seating capacity + belly cargo space on offer

·         The 212 seater (16J flat beds + 196Y) is perfectly suited to meet PIA’s future needs on these medium demand routes on a year round basis enabling it with higher frequency to regain lost market share from OAL

There are many other airlines that I have not mentioned whom would find the B797/NMA a very useful aircraft to have as part of their fleet portfolio such as Fly Dubai, Saudia Airlines, Azerbaijan Airlines, Air Astana, Philippine Airlines, JAL, ANA, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iran Air, Aero Mexico and Jetblue to name a few but one cannot write on all otherwise this report would go into 30 pages easily.

Cockpit Commonality

For the B797/NMA aircraft to really be a top selling aircraft, Boeing should try its best to ensure that its flight deck avionics are compatible with the Boeing 787 thus enabling in the future common cockpit crew rating similar to what made the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 family line a top selling combo for airlines.

This would make crew-rostering and flight scheduling much more efficient for airlines which in turn shall lead to large scale orders as many of the world’s top carriers operate the Boeing 787 already so if they can also have a new Boeing produced aircraft such as the B797/NMA have similar flight deck features then it’s a positive selling feature.

Freighter version

There has been no talk what so ever on a possible freighter version being produced but if it did, mentioned below would likely be its capabilities:

Maximum payload – 45 tons

Maximum flying time with full payload – 7 hours


Boeing made a big mistake ignoring this Middle of the Market segment in the exact same manner in the 1990s when they prolonged wanting to sell the Boeing 767 which allowed Airbus to by pass them through the development of the more advanced and versatile Airbus A330.  

If Boeing had this aircraft ready by 2015 or even 2018, the number of Airbus A321NEO orders that we see today placed by many airlines would have been halved easily.

Yes it is a big investment to undertake to develop a totally new aircraft fuselage from scratch and spend that amount on R&D etc but the investment over the long run would have easily paid off.

The potential for Boeing to exploit in this market segment is still massive so one hopes that by the time it gets into service (expected 2025) it isn’t too late.    

Disclaimer: The opinions, flying range calculations are of my own as Boeing has yet to release officially actual operational data of this aircraft type but rather just some general comments regarding what this aircraft would be capable of performing.