Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Boeing exec gives some detail on possible ‘797’ design

Boeing offered tantalizing new details about its proposed next new airplane at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday, revealing that the fuselage as well as the wings of the jet unofficially dubbed the “797” will be carbon-fiber plastic composite — and will not have the typical airliner cross-section.

Significantly for this region, the information offered provides new hints about how the plane may be built.

Mike Delaney, Boeing vice president in charge of new airplane development, said the plane — like the 787 Dreamliner — will have an all-composite airframe. Previously, Boeing had made clear only that the 797 wings would be carbon-fiber composite.

Boeing has never built a composite fuselage in the Puget Sound region. The various composite fuselage sections for the Dreamliner are made in North Charleston, South Carolina; Wichita, Kansas; and Nagoya, Japan.

However, Boeing is fabricating the composite wings for the forthcoming 777X in a new $1 billion facility in Everett. That investment includes massive, very expensive autoclaves, which are high-pressure ovens where the carbon fiber infused with epoxy resin is baked to hardness.

Building the 797 fuselage will require further heavy investment, wherever Boeing decides to locate that work.

According to a Boeing spokesman who attended the Paris presentation, Delaney said Boeing is considering all options for fabricating the composites, including various new out-of-autoclave and resin infusion methods.

He said the decision on which manufacturing process is used will be based on multiple factors, including the quality of the parts and the time involved in the fabrication.

Delaney also described the proposed 797 fuselage as having a “hybrid cross-section,” meaning having characteristics of both a single-aisle and a wide-body fuselage.

Boeing has already said the jet’s passenger cabin will likely have two aisles, as do wide-body jets, and Delaney reiterated Boeing’s mantra that the jet will have “wide-body comfort” with “single-aisle economics.”

Some in the aviation trade press have speculated that this means Boeing must be looking at an elliptically shaped fuselage cross-section for the 797.

This could allow it to be wider though not as deep as today’s wide-bodies. Such a cross-section could reduce the overall size of the jet, though at the cost of cutting the available cargo space below the passenger cabin.

However, Delaney was not explicit about the shape.

Even if he persuades Boeing Commercial boss Kevin McAllister and the Boeing board to give the go-ahead to this 797 concept, it’s unlikely to be launched for more than a year at the earliest.

There are still lots of design decisions to be made, and more veils to be lifted later.
Boeing order news

On the second day of the Paris Air Show, Boeing blew through its own projection for MAX 10 orders from the day before, with United Airlines committing to 100 of the new model.

A day after Boeing formally launched the MAX 10, the largest member of the new single-aisle jet family seating up to 230 passengers, it announced a further 153 orders for the airplane.

However, the United order is not technically a new order — the U.S. carrier simply agreed to convert its 2012 order for 100 MAXs to the larger model.

Additional MAX 10 orders announced in Paris on Tuesday included 20 for U.S. aircraft lessor Aviation Capital Group, 15 for China Aircraft Leasing Group (CALC), 10 for Irish airline Ryanair, and eight for Chinese airline Okay Airways.

The order news for Boeing went beyond the MAX 10.

Avolon, a rapidly expanding aircraft lessor that is Chinese-owned but headquartered in Ireland, ordered 75 MAX 8s.

Kuwaiti lessor ALAFCO announced a commitment for 20 MAX 8s and Tokyo-based Japan Investment Adviser Co., which has an aircraft-leasing unit, committed to buy 10 MAX 8s.

CALC ordered another 35 different MAX models in addition to its MAX 10 order and Okay Airways another seven MAX 8s.

Okay also signed a memorandum of understanding for five 787-9 Dreamliners. And Azerbaijan Airlines announced a commitment for four 787-8s.

Those follow a significant Dreamliner order Monday from the world’s largest lessor, Ireland-based AerCap, for 30 787-9s.

On Tuesday, United also ordered four 777-300ERs, which is good news in helping Boeing bridge the production gap to the 777X.

Also helping fill that gap, Ethiopian Airlines announced a commitment to buy two 777 freighters.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times) 

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