Boeing has appointed top engineer Terry Beezhold to the leadership team for its New Mid-market Airplane program, which is anticipated to be its next all-new jet. It’s another step toward a likely launch of the new airplane, already widely referred to as the 797.

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Boeing has appointed top engineer Terry Beezhold to the leadership team for its New Mid-market Airplane (NMA) program, which is anticipated to be its next all-new jet.

The appointment is another step toward a likely launch within 18 months of the new airplane, already widely referred to as the 797.

Beezhold most recently was chief project engineer on the 777X program, leading efforts to complete the design of that airplane — a 777 derivative with a giant new plastic composite wing — and to introduce a highly automated production line.

Before that, he was an airplane systems engineer on the 787 Dreamliner program.

His appointment comes two months after Boeing formally established a program office headed by vice president Mark Jenks to work on how the NMA could be designed and built.

Boeing’s NMA concept is a jet intermediate in size between today’s single-aisle 737 domestic airplane and its smallest, long-range, twin-aisle aircraft, the 767 and 787-8.

It envisions a two-jet model family, seating 220-270 passengers in two classes, with a medium range up to 5,700 miles.

One version would have more range capability and the other would be shorter-range but carry more passengers.

If launched, the plane would be targeted to enter service as early as 2024.