Bombardier's clean-sheet CSeries aircraft and the re-engined Airbus A320neo, featuring the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G series geared turbofan engine, have emerged as front-runners in the competition to replace up to 200 narrowbodies at Delta Air Lines.

Delta has issued a request for proposals to airframers to replace 100-200 narrowbody aircraft - Airbus A320s, Boeing 757-200s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-10s - beginning in 2013.

Chief executive Richard Anderson says the A320neo and CSeries equipped with the GTF are "really exciting opportunities", given the 20% targeted fuel reduction specification of the GTF. Anderson makes no mention of the CFM International Leap-X that is also being offered for the A320neo. However, the A319s and A320s operated by Delta are powered by CFM56 engines.

A320 NEO
  © Airbus

"When you think about where fuel prices are going, this industry needs more efficient airplanes and a 20% fuel efficiency at $95 a barrel for fuel is a very important development, so we're excited about the work Bombardier and Airbus are doing."

Anderson last year told Flight International that Delta was monitoring CSeries development, and explained the aircraft's specifications show an aircraft "that has substantially better fuel efficiency than the existing single-aisle airplanes in service today".

While he says that Boeing "will be in the running" in Delta's narrowbody replacement competition, "they are staying with legacy equipment as I understand it". He adds that Boeing numbers "are going to have to match up against the efficiencies of the next-generation airplane".

Anderson expects Delta's evaluation of aircraft offerings by the airframers to last "the better part of the year". Beginning this year and continuing into 2011 Delta also plans to retire 100 aircraft, mostly comprised of 50-seat regional jets, Saab 340 turboprops and DC-9s. The latest cull follows the shedding of 100 aircraft by Delta in the previous two years.

Source: Flight International