Delta CEO: Bright Future For B787 Dreamliner

According to Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines, Inc., in no uncertain terms, that he wants Airbus and Boeing to re-engine the A320 and 737 aircraft, respectively.

Asked about Airbus and Boeing re-engining during a Sept. 21 interview in his Atlanta office, Anderson first referenced Bombardier’s plans for a CSeries with a Pratt & Whitney PW1000 geared-turbofan engine and the narrowbody jet being developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China. The latter’s C919 is being developed with the CFM International LEAP engine.

The Delta CEO said “There is constantly innovation in this industry, and we need that innovation. So we think the manufacturers need to re-engine these airplanes and give us the benefit of that innovation.” Delta does not want to wait for the next generation of narrowbody aircraft, he added.

Anderson put Delta’s need in the context of pollution reduction, rather than fuel efficiency and cost savings. “We have very aggressive CO2 reduction goals, and part of that is to have the engine technology that will result in reduced fuel burn over time, so that we can meet our CO2 reduction goals,” he said.

Airbus seems to be close to deciding to re-engine the A320, but Boeing has been ambivalent about doing the same for the 737.

The Delta CEO called Bombardier’s CSeries an “interesting airplane,” but said the main issue will be proving the reliability of a geared turbofan engine. In the interview, Anderson also had high praise for the potential benefits of the Boeing 787. His remarks seemed to suggest it is not a question of whether Delta will take delivery of 787 aircraft, but of when.

When Delta merged with Northwest, it inherited Northwest’s $2.2 billion order for 18 787-8s as the North American launch customer for the aircraft. But earlier this year, Anderson confirmed that Delta has been negotiating with Boeing “to figure out what’s going to happen with those positions,” because Delta has a sufficient and relatively young transoceanic fleet right now.

Delta recently renewed leases for an average of five years on its 16 Boeing 747-400 aircraft—all of which are being fitted with new flat-bed seats—and has increased its Boeing 777 fleet to 18 aircraft. The airline operates a total of 167 transoceanic aircraft, with an average age of 11 years.

The first Boeing 787 aircraft produced

In his comments on Sept. 21, Anderson reiterated his belief that Delta’s transoceanic fleet is “in really good shape right now,” and he did not say much to dispel the belief that Delta will not be taking delivery on any 787s for a while. But he also was effusive in his praise for the aircraft’s potential.

“The 787 is still going to be a great airplane. It just has some growing pains here along the way,” Anderson continued. “An airplane that will do a 7,000-mile stage length with the same seat-mile costs as a 747 with 220, 230 seats, with the composite design and the new engines, is going to work. It’s just a question of when.” Anderson, however, would not quite commit to taking the 787 at some point, saying only, “I think eventually it could be part of Delta’s fleet.”



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