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"Nine countries will sign a deal"
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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Airbus pulls ahead on orders
Airbus says it has enough orders to launch the super jumbo
Airbus has enough orders to launch the super jumbo
Airbus has pulled ahead of rival Boeing with a clutch of fresh orders announced at the Paris Air Show.

Airbus, which includes the main aircraft manufacturers from the UK, Germany, and France, has secured an order for 111 aircraft from the US-based ILFC, a subsidiary of insurance giant AIG.

The order, worth $9.4bn at list prices, includes a commitment by the leasing firm to buy five A380 super jumbos, as well as 80 of the smaller A320 commercial jets, which compete with Boeing's 737 family.

On Monday, Airbus announced orders for 44 planes from Air France, Royal Air Maroc and JetBlue Airways.

The company says that it now has more than 300 firm orders for this year, against 169 for Boeing.

Boeing pessimism

Meanwhile the head of Boeing's commercial aircraft division, Alan Mulally, forecast that orders for the commercial jetliner industry as a whole this year would be 800 to 900 planes, of which Boeing would have about 400.

Aircraft orders have declined this year because of the US economic slowdown, especially for airline companies in the US and Asia - Boeing's main customers.

"I think it's going to be really tough on the airlines," Mr Mulally said.

"If we can just have the world (economy) come back slowly, we will be in great shape on deliveries."

Boeing revealed a scale model of its controversial Sonic Cruiser, designed to cut hours off the traveling time of long distance air passengers - but there are no orders yet for the new plane.

Military orders mount up

Airbus was also poised to break into the military market for the first time with a commitment from the UK to buy the new A400M military transporter.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is to sign an agreement which commits Britain to buying 25 of the new aircraft in a move expected to secure thousands of UK jobs.

Mr Hoon and his counterparts from eight other European countries will sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday, undertaking to buy more than 200 Airbus A400M aircraft in a single launch order.
Geoff Hoon
Hoon will sign the agreement on behalf of the UK

A commercial contract is due to follow later in the year, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) says it will guarantee up to 8,000 British jobs.

About a third of the jobs will be high-tech, mostly in Bristol and Derby.

Britain currently relies on the American-built Hercules for large-scale operations and has recently leased four of Boeing's giant C17s.

The new airbus is expected to come into service by the end of the decade.

European force

With plans for a 60,000-strong rapid reaction force, there is seen to be an acute need for such giant military transporters to meet the demands of a full-scale peacekeeping and humanitarian effort.

The UK is to provide one in five of the troops for Europe's new force, making a total of about 12,500 ground troops.

Mr Hoon followed up the pledge last November by insisting that the force would not become a "standing European army".

He said the British army would remain under the total control of the British government and ministers would decide when and where troops were deployed.

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Troops pledged to new EU force
18 Jun 01 | Business
Airbus draws first blood
19 Dec 00 | Business
Super-jumbo cleared for take-off
22 May 01 | UK
Concorde to fly 'by summer'
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