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For a brief period between 2003 and 2008, Boeing had a short-range version of the 787 as part of its Dreamliner family. The 787-3 was a high-density version of the 787-8, earmarked for All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. Delays and technical issues with the initial development of the Dreamliner killed its chances of coming to market as Boeing diverted resources from its advancement. It never came off the shelf.

Among the attributes of the short-range 787-3 with seating for 317 in two classes was a truncated 170-foot 4-inch wing, fitted with a 737-style blended winglet rather than the raked wingtip that features on the long-range 787s and its 197-foot 4-inch span. The design requirement for Boeing was to make a medium-size twin-aisle aircraft that fit into the same gates previously occupied by ANA and JAL’s 767-300s.

Related: How the 777X’s folding wing tips work

The 787-3 is forever lost to history, but the need to replace 767s with 787s remains unchanged. Flash forward two decades from its initial inception and Boeing is again trying to put a 787 in a 767 package, but instead of a passenger aircraft, it’s a replacement of its 767-300 factory freighter, which has had a prodigious last act for FedEx and UPS.

The civilian 767’s days are numbered, with ICAO emissions regulations taking hold at the beginning of 2028 prohibiting Boeing from delivering the predominant General Electric CF6-powered factory freighters. The company has considered varying options for the workhorse 767 to bring it to a contemporary emissions standard, including re-winging and or re-engining different variants with the 787’s GEnx. Most recently, Boeing is putting its focus on the 787 as its next act to follow the 767 freighter — albeit with an important influence from the 777X. 

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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