Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian reaffirmed the ambition of the airline of becoming the launch company for Boeing future New Middle of the Market plane (NMA), also called “B797” by the media, in front of the National Press Club in Washington, US, on June 27, 2018.

Bastian had already expressed an interest for Boeing “797” to Bloomberg on February 13, 2018. “We need a successor to our 767s as well as our 757s,” said Bastian, adding “the majority of those will retire in the next decade and we would like to see some of the new aircraft technologies that have been created being brought into the market segment for the 797”. While the company ordered 127 A321ceos, 100 A321neos and 75 Bombardier CS100s to replace on domestic flights its aging Boeing 757s, McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and MD-90 (to be retired by 2020), Delta needs more range for its transatlantic and South American flights.

However, Bastian advised Boeing not to “over build” their next airliner, as he says this market segment needs range and capacity “at the cheapest price possible for passengers”.

An important detail made Delta’s CEO question the delivery date of 2025: the engines. The power plants set to equip the B797 have not yet been tested, or are not even on the market yet in the case of Rolls Royce’s UltraFan. The three main manufacturers (Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce and Safran/GE joint venture CFM International) had until June 27, 2018, to answer Boeing’s request for proposals, providing an engine capable of 45,000 pound thrust with a consumption reduced by 25% compared to the B757. But the three propulsion giants are all going through tumultuous times: Pratt & Whitney’s parent company United Technologies is going through some output delays for its geared turbofan (GTF), Rolls Royce is fixing its Package B and C Trent 1000 engines and General Electric is breaking up.

Bastian reminded that negotiations “are not in decision-making types of stage; it’s still in the discussion phase”. As of February 2018, Boeing was reportedly in talks with more than 50 potential customers.