Another new aircraft type is planned to come onto the market. This time from Boeing who is busy developing their B797 model, an aircraft which is being designed to carry up to 270 passengers on short and/or medium haul sectors. The aircraft, which is planned to fly in six years from now, will surely be a hit, but is said to be facing a “cargo dilemma.”
Enough belly space - but less range?
This seems to be the problem faced by the designers of the new ‘7 series’ family. The aircraft is being designed to win customers who need such an aircraft for either their longest short routes or their shortest long-haul sectors.
Potential customers on opposite sides of the globe seem to have different demands and cargo belly capacity needs. Those in the USA for example are said to need less cargo space than their colleagues in the Far East and are in favour of more passenger comfort.
In a recent Bloomberg article, the boss of the world’s third largest aircraft leasing firm Avolon, Domhnal Slattery, is said to have commented that U.S. carriers would on top of normal maximum baggage weight only need around five tons of space/weight for air cargo. On the other side, in the Far East, the picture looks different he says. Here carriers on top of normal baggage weight, need at least ten tons of space/weight for cargo. Not an easy problem for Boeing to solve.
New middle of market aircraft
Boeing’s original thinking on the new 797 was said to have centered around the needs of the three largest U.S. carriers, American, United and Delta who are needing a replacement aircraft for their old B757 and B767 passenger fleets. There is however demand for this short to medium haul jet in the Far East and most probably in Europe as well. Boeing is in direct competition with Airbus on this and needs to come up with an aircraft which will satisfy all. In the Far East, the need is for a new aircraft which will be good for high density passenger routes and be efficient also on medium long-haul sectors.
At the end of the day the decision will probably be made in favour of where the largest market potential is. Will it be Far East or USA? Belly cargo has become an important revenue bringer for passenger aircraft. This is especially the case for the transportation of time-sensitive, temperature-sensitive and hi-value shipments which bring a far better yield.
Therefore, ten tons may well be better than five tons!
John Mc Donagh