- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — The fast-growing Gulf airline Emirates announced yesterday a $12.5 billion order for 41 airliners from European airplane maker Airbus SAS in what executives called the largest order ever for wide-body jets.

The deal, announced at the Paris Air Show in suburban Le Bourget, includes an order for 21 A-380 superjumbo jets, offering the latest vote of confidence for the planned 555-seat behemoth.

Separately, Emirates announced operating lease orders for 26 777-300ER planes from Airbus rival Boeing Co. The jets will belong to two U.S.-based companies: 14 owned by General Electric Capital Aviation Services and 12 by leasing firm International Lease Finance Corp. However, only four of those planes are new orders.

Emirates has been one of the few bright spots in an aviation industry ravaged by the effects of the September 11 attacks in the United States, a global economic slowdown, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

In the Airbus deal, Emirates also agreed to buy 20 A-340 aircraft — including 18 A340-600s, the largest plane in the Airbus fleet.

British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce PLC said Emirates agreed to buy its Trent 500 engines to power the A-340s in a deal valued at $900 million.

Including previous orders, Emirates plans to purchase 43 A-380s, by far the largest of any airline customer.

Emirates Chairman Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum acknowledged that the orders for A-380s amounted to a “big number,” but said the carrier has had trouble obtaining landing spots at airports and that the larger plane could help solve that.

“We’ll have increased capacity with the same number of flights,” he told reporters.

Noel Forgeard, chief executive of Airbus, said yesterday’s announcement amounted to the largest order ever for wide-body planes.

Airbus has 116 firm orders from eight customers for the A-380, which is to enter service in 2006.

The plane is Airbus’ alternative to Boeing’s 747, now the largest plane in passenger service.

In a statement, the company said it has commitments from Malaysia’s and Qatar’s airlines.

Airbus has said it needs to build and deliver 250 A-380s to break even on the new aircraft. It is nearing the halfway mark of that goal, even though none is in service yet.

Chicago-based Boeing has been setting its sights on a midsized, fuel-efficient 7-E7 aircraft, which is expected to enter service in 2008.

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