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Boeing's '797' takes a big step toward becoming reality

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Boeing’s new ‘797’ has taken a big leap toward becoming a reality.

The aerospace giant has named a chief project engineer to oversee the formation of what is likely to become its first all-new airliner since the 787 Dreamliner. The chief engineer on a new jetliner program is among the most important positions.

Boeing named company veteran Terry Beezhold as the new project's engineering leader, the company confirmed. The engineering chiefs historically wield tremendous influence early on as decisions are made about every facet of the aircraft's design.

Related: World gets first peek at Boeing '797'

Boeing (BA) hasn't yet given the green light to build the small twin-aisle airplane, which will seat between 225 and 270, though the company in September formally created a program office to oversee the possible development. The jet is dryly called the New Mid-market Airplane by Boeing, but has already been dubbed the Boeing '797' by prospective customers.

The airplane would be larger than its biggest single-aisle 737 Max jets, but would not have the flying endurance of its 787 Dreamliner. Airlines are wanting to relieve congestion on busy routes currently flown with smaller jets and open up new routes that don't have the demand for a bigger jet.

boeing 797 screenshot 2
At the Paris Air Show in June 2017, Boeing gave a small peek in at what it's new 797 might look like.

Analysts estimate the project will cost between $10 billion to $15 billion to develop and it wouldn't be ready until 2024 or 2025.

Related: Boeing '797' doesn't exist yet. One airline already says it wants it first

Beezhold is a long-time company veteran who in 2011 was in charge of developing new tools and processes to significantly reduce the cost of designing and manufacturing airliners. That work was put into action developing the 777X, which is manufactured using significantly more automation than previous Boeing airliners.

He is currently chief project engineer on Boeing's 777X program. That 350 to 400-seat aircraft is expected to fly for the first time in early 2019 and will begin taking passengers in 2020. He will be replaced by Michael Teal, who has been serving as chief project engineer for the 737 Max.



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