Chicago - Boeing has to answer a critical question before starting the nine-billion dollar development program for its new mid-market airplane. Whose needs should be met with the new aircraft? Major American airlines want comfort while the Asians want more cargo space.

Boeing is facing a cargo puzzle. Boeing talks to many airlines about details of the 797. But the ideas of the customers diverge. The big US airlines and their Asian rivals have very different ideas about how much cargo a new plane intended for the MOM (Middle of the Market) is supposed to hold.

Boeing anticipates a range of 4,000 to 5,000 nautical miles for the new aircraft. According to Boeing marketing director Randy Tinseth, it should be able to accommodate between 220 and 270 passengers. But difficult part for the aircraft manufacturer is to decide about the cargo capacity.

If the aircraft manufacturer decides to go for development, the 797 should be ready for the market by the middle of the 2020s. Boeing engineers are to consider an oval hull for the new device. This form could create space in the passenger compartment with less weight. Freight would play a minor role in this concept.

The 797 is intended to serve much more economically than Airbus A330 and Boeing 767 on the high-traffic routes in China and other Asian countries as well as the routes between the West coast of the United States and Europe.

A larger cargo space and heavier weight put this target and the oval hull concept at risk. Boeing spoke with 50 potential customers worldwide during the initial planning phase. Asian carriers hope more freight capacity for the 797.

On the other hand, the three major US airlines, American, Delta, and United who are interested in the aircraft very much, prefer more passenger comfort and less cargo space.

"This is how the Boeing 797 will look"

Boeing has already decided not to expand the cargo hold according to John Plueger, the CEO of Air Lease Corporation.

Industry experts expect Boeing to position itself clearly in 2018 on the subject of 797.