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Boeing took a big concrete step toward the launch of its new middle market (NMA) 797 aircraft on Wednesday.

The plane builder will finish accepting proposals from manufacturers for engine designs for the new double-aisle aircraft by the end of day. CFM International, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce are all reportedly bidding to ink the deal. Boeing has asked the engine manufacturers to submit designs that burn 25% less fuel per pound of thrust than the older turbine engines on its 757 aircraft, The Air Current reports.

The aircraft manufacturer reportedly has two variations planned for the forthcoming aircraft. The smaller of the pair will be the NMA-6X, which will seat 228 passengers and will have a medium-haul range of 5,000 nautical miles. The larger NMA-7X will seat 267 passengers and will have a shorter range of 4,200 nautical miles.

The timeline for choosing an engine builder is not yet clear, though as Jon Ostrower writes in The Air Current, choosing an engine is usually the final step before an aircraft actually launches. “Boeing made its pick of General Electric and Rolls-Royce engines for the 787 (then-7E7) just 20 days before All Nippon Airways placed the jet’s 2004 kickoff order,” Ostrower says.

Boeing is rumored to be targeting the 797 for a launch in 2025. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has already expressed interest in making the airline the launch customer for the aircraft:

Industry experts have predicted that this specific segment of the aviation market will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades.

And Boeing rival Airbus also wants a slice of the pie. Airbus is rumored to be developing its own version of a middle market jet. Plans show the European plane builder adding further range capability to its already long-legged A321LR to stay competitive with Boeing in the sector.

Boeing doesn’t seem too worried about the competition, though. It says of the two NMA sizes, that one will be “a little bigger than an A321 but goes a lot further” and the other “about the size of the A330 but has a lot better efficiency,” Boeing Senior Vice President Ihssane Mounir told Reuters.

Aviation industry publication Leeham News reported Monday that despite building anticipation that Boeing would launch its 797 aircraft at July’s Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, England, the NMA will not be rolled out at that exposition.

Featured image by RIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images.

*This post has been updated with Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s comments.

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