Andrew Doyle/MUNICH Paul Lewis/WASHINGTON DC

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is in the final stages of negotiations with Airbus Industrie on an order for up to 80 aircraft, including 18 A340-500/600 widebodies and up to 62 examples of the A320 family.

Industry sources say the aircraft types have been agreed and the talks are focused on financing and industrial participation issues. MAS wants to acquire 10 A340-500s, eight stretched -600s and 45 single-aisle aircraft, plus 17 options, the sources say.

One option believed to be under discussion is the creation of a leasing joint venture between MAS and Airbus to finance the purchase. The industry sources say the complicated aspects of this side of the deal could delay completion by months. Top -level political lobbying of Malaysia by European governments has been under way recently in an effort to clinch the order for Airbus.

Malaysia is understood to be seeking agreements over technology transfer and participation for the country's growing aerospace industry in Airbus subcontract work in return for awarding the order to the European consortium.

In an effort to derail the Airbus campaign, Boeing is pushing hard to persuade MAS to recommit to its yet-to-be-launched 777X derivatives and to take Next Generation 737s (Flight International, 1-7 December, 1999).

The carrier has become increasingly frustrated, however, by Boeing's repeated delays in launching the 777X and by its decision to offer the aircraft exclusively with the General Electric GE90 powerplant. MAS operates eleven 777-200/300s powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent 800.

CFM International is tipped to win the engine contract for the A320s with its CFM56, say the sources. The sole-source powerplant for the A340-500/600 is the Trent 500.

If the deal is completed, the Malaysian flag carrier plans to use the A340-500s and -600s to replace older Boeing 747s and open non-stop transpacific services to the USA. The A320s would replace its 40 737-400/500s.

Source: Flight International