The big announcement by Boeing on whether or not it will commit to the new middle of the market aircraft (NMA), dubbed “797”, was expected to be made during the upcoming Paris Air Show. But then, the 737 MAX crisis hit, at which point Boeing ceased communicating any progress of ongoing projects, even on the 777X. The company’s CEO eventually confessed that they were “making progress” regarding the NMA decision and the timeline of the project has not changed.
Boeing is still working on a business case analysis regarding the NMA. “Our overall timeline – broad timeline for that program has not changed,” Boeing CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg said during the Sanford C Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference on May 29, 2019. “We still see it as a 2025 entry into service kind of airplane”. Final decisions are expected in 2019/2020.
However, Muilenburg also admitted that un-grounding the 737 MAX is a “top priority” task for the company, leaving the NMA “second to that”.
While the airliner is not even decided upon yet, it is believed to be Boeing’s attempt to focus on the overlooked “middle market” and could be 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.
Also viewed as a potential replacement for the aging Boeing 757 or even 767, the new aircraft is already anticipated by some airlines. In February 2019, Delta Airlines CEO admitted that the U.S. legacy carrier is “very interested in it” and could potentially opt for as many as 200 NMAs over the next decade.