ABACE: Boeing explores BBJ 737 combi possibility

Boeing is exploring the possibility of introducing a passenger/combi version of the Boeing Business Jet 737-700C.

The variant would resemble the C-40 Clipper in service with the US Navy, with a large cargo door just behind the left-side forward door, says David Longridge, president of Boeing Business Jets, in an interview with Flightglobal.

“The variant would be able to carry 4t of cargo in the forward cargo hold and maybe 70 people in the back,” says Longridge.

He stresses that the company has not committed to developing a combi version of the BBJ 737, but is studying the possibility and wants to float it to the market. It elected to announce the concept at ABACE to highlight the flexibility of the 737 design.

He lists several government and commercial applications for such a variant. Government applications could include delivering relief supplies or other sensitive cargo in the forward hold, and carrying personnel in the back.

“Oftentimes, when you fly something somewhere, you need to bring people along to either operate it, distribute it, or guard it,” says Longridge.

The variant could also be used for medical evacuation missions.

He believes that commercial applications could include transporting highly specific equipment and personnel for the oil and gas industry, and automobiles. The automotive industry, he says, has a requirement to fly prototype cars to remote destinations in total secrecy. A combi aircraft would allow the vehicle to be transported along with a team of technicians.

He acknowledges that the variant would be a niche product, and its launch depends entirely on customer demand. If the company decides to move forward, it could have a BBJ 737 Combi aircraft ready in two years.

In terms of the market, Longridge notes that the company has delivered four BBJs that can be converted between the cargo and passenger missions.

Boeing is not contemplating the combi concept for its other BBJ aircraft, which covers converted airliner types such as the 777-300ER, 747-8I, and 787.

Longridge, who became president of Boeing Business Jets in December 2014, says despite slowing demand for business jets in China, it is still a very strong market.

Boeing Business Jets have added a dedicated field representative in the country, where some 18 BBJ 737s are operational.

On a global basis, he estimates that 40% of BBJs are operated by governments, 40% by private individuals, and 20% by companies.