Virgin Atlantic becomes first A340-600 customer; Air Canada orders

Date:         04 Aug 97 21:28:52 
From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.NOSPAM.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works, Menlo Park, California
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Airbus Industrie announced the first two customers for the A340-500/600
program on Friday, August 1.

Virgin Atlantic became the first customer to order the new A340-600
with an order for 16 aircraft, to be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 500
engines.  The first delivery will be in 2002, and according to Airbus
will include such features as double beds in private rooms on the
forward lower deck for passengers paying premium fares, a pub/lounge,
showers, and an exercise and massage area on the aft lower deck.

Virgin also ordered two A340-300s to augment the eight which it
already has on order or in service.  The Virgin orders are worth about
$2.5 billion.

Prior to announcement of the Virgin Atlantic order, Air Canada
announced a letter of intent to acquire eight A330 and A340 aircraft,
with options for another twenty, as part of a three-phase fleet
renewal program.

The first phase is to acquire five A330-300s and three A340-300s,
valued at $1.4 billion, to replace six Boeing 747s (three 747-133
models and three 747-233 Combis) and two leased A340-300s.  (Air
Canada has an outstanding order for six A340-300B aircraft which
appears to be unaffected by the LOI.)

Phase two is for A340-500/600 aircraft, and the third phase is
reportedly for eight more widebodies to replace the carrier's
747-400s.  (Presumably this is for fleet expansion, too, since Air
Canada only has three 747-400s, all 747-433 Combis.)  The carrier
set a March 1998 decision date for five of the new aircraft and
ten of the options, for deliveries beginning in 2002.

With the A340-500, Air Canada will be the first airline to operate
such long-range non-stops as Toronto-Hong Kong, according to Airbus.
(That route is trivially longer -- 19 miles -- than Chicago-Hong Kong,
which United currently operates on a seasonal basis with 747-400s, but
it's 262 miles shorter than New York-Hong Kong, which Cathay Pacific
reportedly will be flying non-stop -- with A340s -- long before the
A340-500 is likely to be delivered.)

Despite the press releases, it's not clear that the announcements
actually constitute what Airbus refers to as the industrial launch of
the A340-500/600 program.  The only order is for 16 A340-600s, and no
A340-500s -- Air Canada announced only of a letter of intent, not a
final contract, and even at that is only for options on the new
models.  Airbus had previously said that at least 25 orders would be
required to launch the program.  (Boeing and MD similarly announce
"launch orders" which are in fact conditional on board approval of the
program launch, though I can't recall them ever announcing a "launch
order" which was also conditional on receiving additional orders.)

The commercial launch of the A340-600 (approval to start offering the
aircraft to customers) came in June, at the Paris airshow at Le Bourget.

Specifications for the various A340 models, using passenger counts for
typical three-class configurations:

  Model       Pax   Range
  -----       ---   -----
  A340-200    263   7,450 nm
  A340-300    295   7,300 nm
  A340-500    313   8,300 nm
  A340-600    378   7,300 nm
  A340-8000   232   8,000 nm (not yet launched)

The A340-600, and its shorter A340-500 derivative, will use Rolls-
Royce Trent 500 engines rated at approximately 56,000 lbs thrust.
The other A340 models (including the proposed A340-8000) use CFM
Industries' CFM56-5C engines rated at 30,000-34,000 lbs thrust.

--
Karl Swartz	|Home	kls@chicago.com
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