US airlines mixed on lack of 737 Max engine options

Phoenix
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US airlines have mixed views on Boeing's decision to choose only one engine supplier for the 737 Max, the re-engined narrowbody launched by the carrier in December.

In a panel discussion today, representatives of three US airlines were asked their opinion about only having the CFM International Leap-1B as an engine option for the 737 Max.

Brian Hirshman, senior vice president of technical operations for Southwest Airlines, notes that his carrier launched the 737 Max with a $19 billion order for 150 aircraft.

"Clearly we wouldn't have bought it if we weren't comfortable with [the single-engine]," Hirshman told the Phoenix International Air Symposium.

However, he adds, "choice is preferred".

The latter comment echoed the response of Nathaniel Pieper, Delta Air Lines vice president of fleet strategy and transactions.

"Choice is good - that's my message on that," Pieper says.

He acknowledges Boeing has a long and trusting relationship with CFM, which manufactures the exclusive engine for the 737 next generation aircraft. But that does not always overcome the airline's concerns about a diverse base of vendors.

"Clearly from the airline perspective having alternatives is very important," Pieper says.

That is also the biggest concern for Peter Ingram, Hawaiian's executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

"The concentration of suppliers is a negative for us," he says. "When we're buying aircraft or engines or components it is typically only one or two suppliers that we can get into a competition. We don't want it to be like the Model T, where you can have any colour car you want as long as it's black."