Airbus order worth up to $18bn

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The Independent Online
Europe's aerospace industry was celebrating an order potentially worth $18bn (pounds 11bn) last night as Airbus Industrie confirmed that the American airline USAir was to buy up to 400 aircraft - one of the biggest contracts in the history of commercial aviation.

The US carrier, in which British Airways has a 24.6 per cent stake, has placed a firm order worth $5.4bn for 120 narrow-bodied jets from the Airbus A320 family.

It has taken out options on a further 280 aircraft, which, together with spares, could make the deal worth $18bn. The order will come as a further boost to British Aerospace, which has a 20 per cent stake in Airbus and builds wings for the consortium at its Chester plant.

The deal also lifts Airbus above its US rival Boeing, taking its firm order book so far this year to 393 aircraft compared with Boeing's 388. Airbus only received 106 firm orders last year.

The huge deal with USAir echoes an earlier contract Airbus secured with NorthWest Airlines for 100 A320s. It was that order which signified the arrival of Airbus in Boeing's home market.

The 120 firm orders will be split between Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s and will meet USAir's needs for short-haul jets for the next 13 years.

The three other Airbus partners are Aerospatiale of France, Daimler-Benz of Germany and Casa of Spain.

The aircraft are assembled in Toulouse by Aerospatiale and in Hamburg by Daimler Benz but a large proportion of their content also comes from the US. Last year Airbus bought $3bn worth of components from the US.

USAir said it would enter discussions with engine makers to decide which engines would power its A320 fleet.