A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 enroute from Tampa prepares to land at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on March 11, 2019. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Delta CEO hopes 737 Max issue ‘doesn’t set us back as an industry’

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said discussions surrounding probes into crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes will “open up a lot of questions.”

While Delta does not fly the 737 Max, “I hope it doesn’t set us back as an industry,” Bastian said during remarks at Aviation Week Network’s MRO Americas conference being held at the Georgia World Congress Center this week.

“I’m confident that Boeing will solve this issue,” Bastian said. “I think there will, no question, be lessons learned from this.... I think we’ll all learn from it.”

When asked if the Boeing 737 Max grounding raises issues about the relationship between the industry and regulators, Bastian said: “No question, it’s going to open up a lot of questions.”

Delta, which has a large aircraft maintenance operation, is among the airlines with an Organization Designation Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, authorizing it to conduct some functions normally done by the FAA. The FAA says it “remains directly involved in the testing and certification of any new and novel features and technologies.”

The FAA’s relationship with airlines and manufacturers has come under scrutiny in the wake of the 737 Max crashes.

Bastian said Tuesday: “We gotta get out of the world of cops and robbers. We’re all on the same path here, and the better information and the more transparency we can offer on both sides.... the safer our customers are.”

The 737 Max crisis has also affected other priorities at Boeing.

Delta is interested in a new aircraft Boeing is developing, currently dubbed the New Midsize Airplane, or NMA.

“We’ve talked with Boeing at some length about the NMA. Clearly they’re distracted, obviously, with the issues that happened with the Max,” Bastian said.

At Delta, “we have a big need. We have 200 757s and 767s that will be retired over the next decade, and we think the NMA would be a perfect candidate to replace many of those airplanes,” Bastian said. “Relative to Boeing, we’ve made our interest known and we’ve talked publicly about this in terms of having an interest to be one of the launch customers. And I hope we can get into deeper conversations soon.”

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.
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