Boeing and International Lease Finance (ILFC) are close to agreeing a contract for orders involving up to 100 717-200s. Boeing hopes the deal will provide the programme with its long-awaited sales breakthrough for the type since the similarly sized initial launch order from AirTran Airlines in 1995.

ILFC, which declines to comment, is expected to discuss the deal at a board meeting to be held in Los Angeles, California in mid-October. Sources close to the talks say that, although no firm decision is expected from the meeting, it is hoped it will clear the way for further negotiations. The terms of the deal are being kept a closely guarded secret, but are understood to involve a novel risk-sharing partnership along the lines devised by General Electric and Boeing to develop the Boeing Business Jet.

"ILFC is fairly smart. They're trying to squeeze every penny out of them [Boeing]," say sources close to the talks. Under the arrangement it is thought Boeing will help "-secure leases" and assume a part of the risk, reducing ILFC's overall exposure and outlay.

The innovative arrangements have been necessary to break the deadlock between Boeing and ILFC, which have been negotiating "for the longest time" say sources close to the talks.

Although no confirmation of the numbers involved has yet emerged, the deal is expected to be for up to 50 firm orders and 50 options. This would provide a substantial boost to the orderbook, although it is not as large as the original deal which was being discussed by ILFC and McDonnell Douglas around two years ago. Then, the talks centred on up to 75 firm orders and 150 options at a price per aircraft of between $22 million and $23 million, depending on options.

Sources say that, even if the deal is ratified, the timing of any announcement could be affected by 717 sales campaigns aimed at Air Canada and Northwest Airlines.

Source: Flight International