The much talked about 797 is a lady in waiting as Boeing refines its newly installed 777X manufacturing and assembly center in Everett, Wa. Last summer was a glimpse of Boeing's vision when it hinted about the 797 program but it had unfinished business to attend to, the 777X program. It is clear Boeing is learning lessons on the 777X program and that will shape the 797 program for a NMA airplane.
Boeing is making giant carbon wings in its massive Everett location. It is automating the build process eliminating the mechanics rule of thumb on installation of fasteners and various processes. The bugs it encounters are legend. The reward is a change in how humanity builds massive things. The things from Sci-Fi is becoming a reality at this juncture. Boeing has a to-do list before announcing its next venture. The 777X program has already sunk billions into its life form as its a massive replacement of the 777-300-ER. The importance of the production transformation envisions a 777-300-ER in one position and a 777-9X directly behind it coming through the process.
All that needs to done on the factory floor is switch the software for its assembly machines for the types of 777 coming through its process. At this time it was reported that Boeing had over 12,000 corrections needing fixing within the processes. The schedule it attempts has managements full attention and full confidence it will meet the challenge. The 777X is on course for a 2020 deadline.
However, another step remaining for the emergence of the 797 is the completion of 777X process. The 797 is awaiting validation for processes it will use during its build. It will be built differently, but will be built on lessons learned from all its current programs combined. It will have a remarkable wing coming from the lessons on both the 787 and 777X wings manufacture.
The body pieces will have a new process for formation and assembly but it will also borrow from the 777X process and suggests the 797 may become a mix process in assembly with some other type of Boeing aircraft. The 777-300 and 777X is going to be a mixed process in the same factory space. The 797 could share space in Charleston, SC, or where the 787-9 is built in Everett.
The known attributes for the 797: it has is duo aisle, 5,500 mile range and up to 270 passengers. That suggest it will be closer to a 787 size than a Max size. The 797 may not have carbon fiber barrels flown around the world or will the wings come from Japan. The 797 may be built and supplied at home locations. IT could be a rail option or a barge option in play. A large single part barrel could float or rail IT to the assembly location or all Carbon Fiber body part could be made onsite of the assembly location.
Charleston comes to mind for that kind of flexibility where a 797 could be made and assembled on location without using dream lifters. That kind of out of the box thinking would require Charleston to build only the 787-10 and the 797 as the same time. This would leave Everett to its 787-9 and 777-9X programs.
Boeing will produce a clean sheet small airplane design after the 797 would enter service in five plus years from now. The year 2030 is ripe for such an announcement for having a new single aisle for 2035. If Boeing can reduce costs on all its processes then a carbon fiber single aisle is logical in 2035.
The hardest decision is coming up for a Boeing numbering convention since the 797 exhausts the sequence. Boeing may have to go back to the 757 number and add NSA to the number meaning New Single Aisle. Boeing asked Airbus if NSA was already taken.