Meet the Boeing 7J7, the plane that almost killed the 737

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In the mid-1980s, Boeing even designed an aircraft based on the structure of the 727, but with a hybrid jet and propeller engine (“propfan”). It could even have ended the 737 project. However, the aircraft never became a reality. Meet the 7J7 project.

7J7 trimotor concept

The Boeing 7J7 was born as a second attempt by the American manufacturer to replace the Boeing 727, in 1983. At that time, the scenario was quite interesting and the manufacturer needed to bet on a new smaller aircraft, since the newly launched 757 had been presenting weak sales and companies wanted to make more flights a day than flying larger-capacity aircraft.

In addition, with the retirement of the Boeing 727, Boeing found itself with an open gap in its portfolio. The Boeing 737-100 carried 118 passengers and the 757-200 more than 200. Something was missing in this interval, which led engineers to design the Boeing 7J7, an intermediate aircraft with a new concept, aiming at greater efficiency in terms of fuel consumption. fuel to operate short domestic routes in Europe, Japan and the United States.

The project was so serious that the Japanese government even signed a letter of understanding to finance 25% if the aircraft was equipped by turbofans Japanese. Boeing, however, stepped back from this agreement and opted for General Electric’s new “propfan” or UDF concept. Later, this choice would delay entry into service until the 1990s and ended up contributing to killing the project.

The aircraft was officially unveiled to the world at the 1985 Paris Air Show, with Boeing taking orders in 1988 and an entry into service designed for 1992. Boeing would initially offer two different models of the 7J7: the 7J7-100 with 150 seats and the 7J7 -110 with up to 110 seats.

Did not work

Despite the frustration at not having its engine chosen, Japan has joined as an important project partner. In fact, the aircraft’s name was changed from 7-7 to 7J7, to reflect the Japanese influence. Scandinavian airline SAS has become the launch partner of the type.

Engine style that could be used on the 7J7 – Photo: NASA

But Boeing, despite the ambitious plans, ended up putting its feet in the hands and did not involve the airlines to give their opinion on the aircraft. As a result, the manufacturer once said it was surprised by the reactions when it started presenting the Boeing 7J7. Acceptance was low, there was great reluctance by companies about an unproven and entirely new model, and there was no certainty about the reliability of the new engines.

There would also be two designs, one with two and the other with three engines, which confused the airlines. Still, a survival came, with two big orders.

Stopping production

In May 1987, Boeing already had two major airlines interested in the product. British Airways wanted 35 7J7 to replace 737-200 and American Airlines wanted 100 units of a stretched version of 7J7. SAS was still interested in being the launch partner and said it would have the largest fleet of its kind in the world.

Concept of the twin-engine 7J7

However, later that month, before any agreement could be signed, Boeing postponed certification from 1992 to 1993, claiming, at the time, that they could not decide between a 140 or 170 seat model. This was due to the difference in preference between British Airways and SAS (who wanted the smaller version) and American Airlines (who wanted the larger version).

To make matters worse, if Boeing went with the larger version (170 seats), its engine would not be able to give it the necessary power. After much study, in 1988, Boeing “paused” the development of the Boeing 7J7, claiming that they needed to rethink the market potential. Thereafter, Boeing would encourage American Airlines to purchase the Boeing 757 and further develop the Boeing 737 to reach 200 seats in the coming decades.

Boeing members claimed that the project was killed slowly in the 1990s to try to pave the way for an expanded Boeing 737. If the Boeing 7J7 had been built, we might not have seen the rise of the Boeing 737 as one of the most important in the world.

What were the aircraft specifications?

Based on the model, we know that the aircraft had the following specifications:

Passenger capacity: 147-166
Length: 43,9 m
Wingspan: 37 m
Height: 11 m
Wing area: 126,8 m²
Empty weight: 44.170 kg
Max. Takeoff weight: 72.000 kg (159.000 lb)
Cruising speed: Mach 0,83
Scope: 2,250 to 4,250 nautical miles

The 7J7 concept may never have gone further, but much of the research and development has been launched on other Boeing products, such as the Boeing 777. The Japanese partnership would also extend to the Boeing 787 program.

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