Paul Lewis/Singapore

China Eastern Airlines is set to lease its Ìrst ten Airbus Industrie A320s, giving the European consortium another major new inroad into the fast-developing Chinese air-transport market .

The Shanghai-based international carrier intends to replace its ßeet of ten Fokker 100s with the larger A320s, while deferring an order for three Airbus A340-300s, which instead are now expected to go to China Southwest Airlines.

It is understood from local sources that the airline has selected CFMInternational CFM56-5s to power the A320s, and is Ìnalising a ten-year lease deal with General Electric Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). International Lease Financehad also been competing to supply the airline with International Aero Engine V2500-equipped A320s.

As part of the deal, GECAS is required to dispose of the carrier's four- to Ìve-year-old Fokker 100s. China Eastern's ten leased replacements are in addition to 60 A320/A321s already ordered by China Aviation Supplies (CASC) and will further boost Airbus' growing share of the local narrowbody market.

China Eastern's decision to lease A320s represents a setback for McDonnell Douglas, which was hoping to secure a follow-on sale to nine MD-90-30s on order, but was understood to be reluctant to accept the Fokker 100s as a trade-in.

The MD-90s will go to China Eastern's Anhui and Shandong airline subsidiaries to replace some of the airline's 13 MD-82s, which China Eastern is considering converting into freighters.

The airline also wants to cap its Airbus A340-300 ßeet at Ìve, with the three outstanding aircraft on order by CASCexpected to go to China Southwest for use on the demanding Chengdu-Lhasa route into Tibet.

nSingapore Aircraft Leasing, in the meantime, has signed a letter of intent to lease Ìve V2500-powered A320s to Saeaga Airlines of Malaysia. A seven-year lease is expected to be Ìnalised shortly for delivery in 1998, after which the carrier intends ordering a further Ìve A320s from Airbus around 1999/2000.o

Source: Flight International