GE Aviation says it is not fazed by the possibility that Delta Air Lines will return nearly 200 CF34-engine-powered aircraft earlier than expected, some of them just before engine overhauls are due, because the engine manufacturer has a big order book and a growing backlog of service contracts.

The return and retirement of Bombardier CRJ100s and 200s, even at a potentially accelerated pace, “is nothing we weren’t already planning for,” and will do whatever it can, “within reason,” to keep former Delta Connection CRJ100s and 200s in service, a GE Aviation spokesman tells Aviation Week.

However, he adds that “we would be fine” financially even if many of the aircraft are scrapped rather than placed with new operators. “It would be unfortunate; we don’t want to see that happen. But if it happens, we’ll be okay,” he says.

GE Aviation projects that 2,500 regional aircraft will be retired in the next 20 years, but also sees 5,000 deliveries of new regional aircraft in the same period. The engine maker delivered 300 CF34s in 2010 and 370 in 2011, expects to deliver another 390 this year, and has 680 on its order books for future deliveries.

The manufacturer’s engine order backlog also includes firm orders for 6,222 CFM powerplants, 900 GEnx and 1,976 GE90 engines for narrow and widebody airframes. CFM, a joint venture of GE and France’s Snecma, produces the CFM engines.

The backlog commercial engine service contracts is valued at $65 billion, says the spokesman, based on an estimate of future work on current OnPoint maintenance and management contracts. The $65 billion backlog has risen steadily from $55 billion in 2008, and is $3 million higher than in 2011, GE Aviation says, adding that it generated $7.2 billion in revenue from its services business last year.

As Aviation Week previously reported, the pilots union for Delta Air Lines says the carrier is contractually obligated with regional airline partners to operate 311 of its 50-seat aircraft through the end of 2015 and 155 through 2019. But the tentative agreement that Delta reached with its pilots union on a new collective bargaining agreement provides a mechanism for the carrier to reduce its 50-seater fleet to 125 aircraft by as soon as the end of 2015, using contracts for operating 76-seat aircraft as an incentive for regional airline partners to end the 50-seater contracts early.

Bombardier has expanded the market for the CRJ100s and 200s by greatly increasing the number of operators, and casts Russia and Africa as good prospects for the aircraft, but it remains to be seen if the market can accommodate a major increase in used inventory.

GE Aviation will not comment on possible incentives on engine overhauls for airlines or lessors that acquire former Delta Connection CRJs.