AerSale has paid a substantial, undisclosed deposit to acquire 25 of Saudi Arabian Airlines' Boeing MD-90s, according to a source close to the situation.

The Florida-based lessor completed the acquisition of the first MD-90 aircraft (MSN 53506) only yesterday. Saudi will be delivering a further two aircraft later in the month.

AerSale is financing the transaction internally through an all-equity purchase, the source says.

Saudi is selling 24 of the 27 MD-90s it retired from service between 2009 and 2011, as well as one MD-90 it is actively flying as a VIP aircraft for the Saudi royal family, the source notes.

The Middle Eastern carrier will be delivering three aircraft a month to AerSale, culminating in the delivery of the VIP aircraft sometime next year.

Despite Delta Air Lines buying up a slew of MD-90s from China Eastern in 2010, industry sources say Saudi's MD-90 fleet will be more difficult to lease out to airlines. This is due to the harsher flying conditions they have endured, as well as their modified flight decks.

"They [Saudi's MD-90s] are not a standard fit as they have MD-11 style flight decks, making them less desirable in the market," one of the sources notes.

AerSale is nevertheless optimistic about leasing some of the MD-90s to other airlines, while others will be sent for part-out, the first source reveals.

The exact proportion to be leased out will be decided upon following a thorough inspection by AerSale, but the aim is to keep as many aircraft as possible in the sky. "They are still young, built between 1998 and 2000, and have [International Aero Engines] V2500 engines, which is the same engine that Airbus uses," the source says.

AerSale's desire to keep the MD-90s flying bodes well for the future of the aircraft, which has become something of a dying breed. Only 59 of the MD-90s still in existence are currently in service, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, with the remaining 49 in storage. In addition to Delta's fleet of 34 MD-90s in service and 18 in storage, Japan Airlines has a further 12 in service and one in storage.

It is understood that Saudi took the decision to phase out the MD-90s in anticipation of its upcoming deliveries of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. Last year, Airbus delivered three A320s, seven A321s and one A330 to the airline, and a further seven deliveries have been scheduled for 2012, according to Ascend Online.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news