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Europe's Airbus Loses British Jet Order to Boeing

August 17, 1987|From Reuters

LONDON — British Airways said Friday it would buy 11 Boeing 767 aircraft worth $795 million, a defeat in a hotly fought contest for Boeing's European rival Airbus Industrie.

But British Airways put off the politically sensitive decision on whether to spend an additional $1 billion on U.S. or European longer-range jets.

The decision was politically charged because of the transatlantic dispute over whether Airbus, which is taking on Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, is unfairly subsidized by its member governments, France, West Germany, Britain and Spain.

British Airways Chairman Lord King said the 767s, equipped with Rolls-Royce RB-211 engines, would be used on short-haul routes and would be delivered starting at the end of 1989.

At the same time, the British are keen to insure the continued success of Rolls-Royce, a leading builder of aircraft engines but considerably smaller than U.S. manufacturers General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

King said the 250-seat Boeings were chosen because they were fitted with Rolls-Royce engines. The rival Airbus A300 has American engines, although the wings are built by British Aerospace, which has a 20% stake in the venture.

"This is a good news day for British industry and British jobs," King said. "It is all the more pleasing because our decisions are based on the strictest commercial criteria."

Rolls-Royce makes no suitable engine for the Airbus A300.

But King said a decision was being put off until next year on whether to replace BA's seven aging long-haul Tristar jets with the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 or the Airbus A340.

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