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Airbus Lands $2.5-Billion Jet Order From Northwest

April 04, 1987|From Reuters

PARIS — The European Airbus consortium Friday announced an order worth at least $2.5 billion from Northwest Airlines for a proposed line of long- and medium-range passenger jets that will compete with U.S. manufacturers.

Airbus said the deal with the fifth-largest U.S. airline consists of an order for up to 20 A-340 long-range airliners and an option for 10 A-330 medium-range jets.

The contract with the St. Paul, Minn.-based airline represents a major step forward for Airbus, giving it its first customer in the lucrative U.S. market for its controversial long-haul jet program.

It also bolsters the likelihood that the planes, still on the drawing board, will be put into production.

Production of the planes by Airbus, a European aircraft manufacturing consortium, consisting of companies from Britain, France, West Germany and Spain, is opposed by St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas Corp. and Boeing Co. of Seattle and by the U.S. government. The two firms, which together hold 85% of the world market for big passenger planes, complain that the project has been been unfairly subsidized and comes when the world market is fatigued.

Last month, the consortium announced that it had obtained a total of 104 commitments from nine customers for the A-340 and the A-330 planes, and a spokeswoman confirmed that Friday's order was in addition to those commitments.

Airbus has said it needs at least five customers to go into production.

Airbus is in stiff competition with McDonnell Douglas in the long-range jet market, since the U.S. group formally launched its MD-11 plane program in December and has notched up well over 100 orders and options for the aircraft.

European governments, which are being asked to fund between $2.5 billion and $3 billion for the A-330/340 programs, remain to be convinced that there is room for two long-range jet projects in addition to Boeing's hugely successful 747 jumbo.

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