Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

BRITISH AIRWAYS is expected soon to finalise a $2 billion order for around 20 Boeing aircraft, which could include a mix of 747-400s, 757s and some 777s. The deal will be the airline's first major order since 1991.

BA declines to comment on the reports, but sources indicate that the order will involve up to 15 747-400s, with a handful of 757s and 777s. The Rolls-Royce RB.211 powers the airline's existing 747-400 and 757 fleets, while the 777s are equipped with the General Electric GE90.

BA's backlog with Boeing includes firm orders for 17 747-400s, plus nine options, and 12 777-200s, with 15 options. The airline now operates 44 757s, and holds no outstanding orders or options. BA's previous 747 order was placed in 1991, softening the blow for R-R, which had lost out to GE on the 777s ordered at the same time.

Some of the airline's outstanding 747 orders are due for delivery over the next two years, although at least eight do not have a published schedule. The newly ordered 747s would probably follow on from the current batch, with deliveries through to 2000 and beyond. It is believed that BA could convert up to three 777 options this year, with the remainder being taken up in blocks by 2000.

BA's existing 62-strong 747 fleet includes 15 ageing -100s, which are likely to be retired over the next few years. These could be replaced either by additional 747-400s, or by the stretched 777-300, which Boeing has designed specifically as a 747 "classic" replacement. If the airline were to choose the 777-300, it would be the first customer to announce an order for the GE90-powered version.

At the end of 1995, Boeing announced that the 747 production rate would be accelerated, from the then-current rate of 24 a year, to 42 from the fourth quarter of 1996, indicating that it was anticipating new orders.


Source: Flight International