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Virgin Ponders Buying Both 747X, Airbus A3XX

Sun Jun 11, 2000 11:41 am

Copyright © 2000 The Seattle Times Company

Business : Friday, June 09, 2000

Virgin ponders buying both 747X, Airbus A3XX

by Bloomberg News

LONDON - Virgin Atlantic Airways said it wants to buy Boeing's 747X jetliner as well as Airbus Industrie's A3XX, becoming the first company to say publicly that it wants the proposed larger 747.

Virgin has long said it's considering the A3XX superjumbo. After talks with both manufacturers, Virgin spokesman Paul Moore said, the carrier is interested in buying between five and 10 of each plane, spending as much as $4 billion.

Virgin's statement is a blow to Airbus, the No. 2 maker of jetliners after Seattle-based Boeing. The European group's four partner companies yesterday again postponed a decision on whether to go ahead with selling the 550-seat A3XX, still mired in internal squabbles over which country should manufacture the plane.

Airbus wants to build the A3XX to end Boeing's 30-year monopoly on jetliners seating more than 400 people and says it has offers of interest from at least eight customers for more than 50 superjumbos.

In recent weeks Boeing has intensified its sales push behind the 747X, a series of proposed larger versions of the 416-seat plane that have been under development for several years. One model, dubbed the 747-400X, would add extra fuel tanks to give airlines an additional 500 miles of range or 15,000 pounds of payload. The so-called "747X stretch" would add about 30 feet to the current 747's fuselage and 17 feet to its wings to allow it to carry as many as 516 people. The last model, dubbed simply the 747X, would have a wider wingspan and slightly longer fuselage to carry 430 people as far as 10,300 miles, allowing even lengthy flights such as Sydney to Dallas.

Boeing says these models could be ready early in 2005, ahead of the A3XX. Analysts estimate they would cost $4 billion to develop, compared with $12 billion for the A3XX.

A Virgin statement said it envisions buying both aircraft to "maintain fleet flexibility and versatility." The airline's plans cast doubt on whether the business case is strong enough for both giant jetliners, said George Hamlin, senior vice president of Global Aviation Associates, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

"We're talking $16 billion of investment for what could be a relatively small near-term market," he said.

Now that would be interesting!!!

Do you think it is likely that they will get both? (if any)


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