Boeing is moving steadily to launch its New Midsize Aircraft or 797 although its chief executive Dennis Muilenburg is coy on a launch date.
Speaking at an Alliance Bernstein conference Mr Muilenburg said that Boeing still intends to decide this year whether to offer its proposed NMA despite the MAX tragedies.
According to Flightglobal Muilenburg told the investor conference that “our overall broad timeline of that program has not changed. We still see it as a 2025 entry-into-service type of aeroplane.”
The 797 would carry between 200-270 passengers and have a 4,000-5,000nm range with twin aisles.
Airlines are pressing Boeing to continue work on the 797, with Delta Air Lines a major driver.
Insiders tell AirlineRatings.com that progress hasn’t slowed on the refining of the design and business case.
However, Mr Muilenburg stressed that the 737 Max remains Boeing’s top priority.
Flightglobal said that he told the conference that the company has made “clear and steady progress” toward getting the aircraft back in the skies.
Boeing has finished testing an update to the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) and is “in the process of applying for final certification”, Muilenburg said. “We are finishing a dialogue with the FAA, working through a series of questions and answers with them. Once that’s complete, we will schedule the certification flight.”
On the 777X Muilenburg said that the 777X was on track for first flight but didn’t specify a date, although insiders tell AirlineRatings.com that it will be late June.
According to Flightglobal in the last two weeks, Boeing held 737 Max-related meetings with customers in Dubai, Europe, Miami, Moscow, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo, he says.
While again offering condolences to crash victims, Mr Muilenburg’ s comments took a more positive tone.
“We see this as a defining moment for the Boeing Company. I am confident [that] on the back side of this we are going to come out even stronger,” Muilenburg says. “It has only reinforced, reinvigorated everything we are doing in driving quality and safety.”
Getting back to widebody aircraft Muilenburg said that demand for Boeing aircraft remains strong, with airlines estimated to need some 43,000 new aircraft within 20 years.
“We see a very solid aerospace market. We see another significant widebody replacement wave coming sometime in the next decade. The 787 and 777X are both well positioned.”