Airbus beats rivals to dollars 1bn Canadian order

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The Independent Online
AIRBUS Industrie won over yet another North American airline to its line of narrow-body, twin-engine commercial jets, convincing Air Canada to buy its A-319 model instead of updating its ageing McDonnell Douglas DC-9s.

Boeing had also competed fiercely for the dollars 1bn order. Air Canada will buy 25 of the 124-seat planes - by far the largest order to date for the slimmed-down version of the A-320 - with an option to buy 10 more.

Airbus, jointly owned by British Aerospace and three other European partners, had sold only nine A-319s to date, three to Swissair and six to a Los Angeles-based aircraft lessor, International Lease Finance Corporation. The sale endorses Airbus's concept of a 'family' of aircraft based on a single design.

Air Canada is also a customer for the 150-seat A-320, with 34 of the planes on order, and expressed interest yesterday in the third member of the 320 series, the stretched 185-seat A-321. The models share the same cockpit design, allowing carriers to tailor aircraft size to their route network without changing crews.

Air Canada also owns six wide- bodied A-340s, which also share a similar cockpit and whose crews require only minimal additional training.

McDonnell Douglas had hoped to convince Air Canada to modernise its 35 DC-9s with 'kits' designed to bring the 27- year-old aircraft up to current noise and pollution standards. This would have preserved the airline as a likely customer for its next generation of narrow-body planes, which are not likely to reach the market until the next century.

But Air Canada's chief executive, Hollis Harris, noted yesterday that the A-319 carried twice as much cargo as the DC-9, offering operating economies.

Airbus's arch-rival, Boeing, had also hoped to sell Air Canada the most recent redesign of its best- selling twin-engine 737. Most of Air Canada's wide-bodied fleet is made of Boeing aircraft, both 767 and 747s.

The A-319s will be powered by engines built by France's SNECMA and the American General Electric Company.