Rolls-Royce announces a decision to withdraw from the competition to power Boeing’s proposed middle of the market aircraft, the New Midsize Airplane (NMA) also dubbed as 797. The engine maker states it cannot make the engine on Boeing’s timetable.

The company is unable to commit to the proposed timetable, claiming it is not enough time to technically mature and de-risk its next generation UltraFan engine before entry into service,Rolls-Royce announced on February 28, 2019.

Nevertheless, Rolls-Royce is to continue developing its next generation UltraFan® engine architecture and expects to reach  “high confidence in engine maturity” towards the end of the next decade.

UltraFan is a scalable jet engine design for both widebody or narrowbody aircraft. Compared to  the first-generation of Trent engines, it will offer a 25% fuel efficiency improvement. “We have successfully run tests of the new architecture that sits within the core of the engine through the Advance3 demonstrator, as well as the power gearbox and composite fan blade system,” the company notes in a statement.

“UltraFan is the foundation of our future large civil aero engine programmes and we must ensure that it has as smooth an entry into service as possible,” according to Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace. “We had begun its development before the Boeing opportunity emerged and it must undergo a rigorous testing regime before we offer it to customers, which we do not believe can be achieved within the NMA timeframe. Withdrawing at this stage will enable Boeing to structure the final part of the competition in a way that best suits them and we hope and expect to work with Boeing on other new opportunities in the future”.

Boeing is yet to formally commit to producing the NMA/797.. In January 2019 reports appeared that the industry giant already has over 1,000 people  working on the 797 design, while the program itself is “accelerating towards an internal launch around the end of 1Q 2019”. Bloomberg reported at the time that the company’s  executives are “closing in” on the decision and the 797 program might be reviewed by Boeing’s board as soon as by the end of March 2019.

The new jetliner is the company’s attempt to focus on the overlooked "middle market". NMA  designed for the 8 to 10-hour travel, on routes such as New York to Los Angeles in the U.S., or medium-range flights connecting the U.S., say, Chicago, to cities in Europe. Thus, it could potentially open up 30,000 new routes and challenge today’s system in which long haul flights are usually carried from major hubs instead of point-to-point routes from secondary cities.

On the main photo: Rolls-Royce first generation Trent 700 engine