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Boeing reportedly tells engine makers to make bids for a new 797 plane

Key Points
  • A report has claimed that engine manufacturers were given until today to bid with new engines for a Boeing 797.
  • In a statement to CNBC, manufacturer Rolls-Royce refused to deny the Boeing deadline.
  • Boeing has previously said it wants a new mid-sized airliner in the skies by 2025.
Dennis Muilenburg, chairman and CEO of Boeing. The company says 1 out of every 4 jetliners rolling off its assembly lines is being bought up by Chinese customers.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A major step towards the launch of a Boeing 797 has been taken after different engine makers were reportedly given until the end of Wednesday to detail how they would power the airplane.

In July 2016, Boeing forecasted a 4,000 to 5,000 aircraft demand for a new “middle of the market” airliner. The plane-maker suggested it could achieve a service entry date of around 2025.

Now, the first version is reported to be the NMA-6X, a 228-passenger medium-range aircraft with a 5,000 nautical mile range. A second version, the NMA-7X would be larger with 267 seats, but a range of 4,200 nautical miles.

Both concepts would evolve to become the Boeing 797.

According to the aviation magazine “The Air Current,” Boeing has given the manufacturers a Request for Proposals (RFP) deadline of June 27 to submit plans for a new engine that burns 25 percent less fuel than turbines used on Boeing’s 757 planes.

Boeing's new 777s will have folding wings
Boeing's new 777s will have folding wings

General Electric and Safran’s joint venture CFM, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce are three firms identified as bidders for the project.

Commenting on the report, Sandy Morris, Jefferies aviation equity analyst, said in a note Wednesday that CFM would be “keenest” to power the 797 and might push forward a derivative of its GE9X engine, currently used to power Boeing’s 777X.

Morris said Pratt & Whitney’s proposal could also be in the mix if it can demonstrate that its GTF technology could scale up to the 45,000 pounds of thrust that Boeing is said to be demanding.

A spokesperson for Rolls-Royce refused to confirm the report but provided CNBC with the following statement:

"We are an engine company and have always said that whenever an aircraft manufacturer comes forward with a proposal we will have a technology response. However, until any details are confirmed, we cannot speculate and these matters are completely a matter for the aircraft manufacturer.”

A production assembly mechanic installs a safety cable on a CFM56-7 jet engine.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Boeing’s main rival Airbus claimed in 2016 that there was no need for a new midmarket plane, as its A321neo was already for sale. Morris said that despite that claim, should Boeing push ahead with a 797, Airbus would be highly likely to respond in kind.

Boeing stock has suffered in recent weeks because of investor fears over the effect of a trade war on its business. During June, the share price has slipped around 8 percent to just over $331.

Last week, Morgan Stanley set a $373 price target on shares of Boeing and gave the company a “hold” rating.

Boeing, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney were all contacted for comment but had not replied by the time of publication.