AIRBUS INDUSTRIE has collected new orders for a total of 32 aircraft from Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and FedEx.

The orders come as Airbus declares itself "neck and neck" with Boeing in sales in the first eight months of this year. Asiana of South Korea has been confirmed as Airbus' newest customer, with a firm order for 18 A321 narrow bodies, while FedEx has ordered 11 additional A300-600F freighters, and Cathay Pacific has expanded its A340-300 fleet.

The new Asiana aircraft will be delivered from the second quarter of 1998, with the last aircraft to be handed over by 2005. The aircraft will operate on domestic and selected regional services.

The new order is part of the South Korean airline's fleet-expansion plan, which will eventually include wide body aircraft. According to Airbus, Asiana plans to reduce its Boeing 737-400 fleet as leases on some aircraft run out, and the new A321s join the fleet.

The A321s will be operated in a 185-seat configuration. The airline's choice of power plant has not yet been revealed. Airbus declines to reveal the value of the contract, beyond saying that the A321 sells for a basic $55 million.

FedEx placed an original order for 25 A300-600Fs in 1991, and is to take delivery of the new batch between 1998 and 2000. The aircraft will be powered by General Electric CF6-80C2 engines, and will mostly be flown on domestic US routes.

FedEx now operates 17 A300-600Fs and 27 A310 freighters. Airbus says that the two freighter types together have accounted for over half the market for aircraft in their class.

According to Airbus, the $100 million A300-600F can carry a maximum 54,500kg payload "from Memphis to Seattle", and 51,000kg from the east coast to the west coast of the USA.

With its new order, Cathay Pacific is increasing the number of firm orders for the $130 million A340-300 to nine. The latest batch will be delivered during the second half of 1998, and will link Hong Kong with destinations in Europe and North America, as well as flying on selected Asian routes.

Cathay already operates three aircraft of this type, all in the 275t increased-take-off-weight version, as well as four A340-200s.

Although Boeing beat Airbus in gross orders, with 333 against Airbus' 234 by the end of August, the US company also suffered 117 cancellations, compared to 13 suffered by Airbus. This leaves Boeing with 216 net orders, compared with the European consortium's total of 221.

Source: Flight International