An agreement for International Lease Finance (ILFC) to supply three Airbus Industrie A320's to Chinese domestic operator Sichuan Airlines, is being delayed by the failure of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to approve the deal.

ILFC, under an agreement signed in March with China Aircraft Supplies (CASC), was due to deliver the first International Aero Engines V2500-powered aircraft in July and the remainder by the end of the year. Sichuan would be the first airline in China to operate the A320.

The CAAC, however, is understood to have raised questions about training and Sichuan's readiness to put the aircraft into operation. The A320s are needed to replace the airline's elderly Tupolev Tu-154s, but it is now uncertain when the aircraft will be cleared for delivery.

China's authorities have prevented airlines from ordering new aircraft since July 1994, in an attempt to improve training and safety. The CAAC has made exceptions to the 18-month ban, including the recent delivery of two new Boeing 737-300s to Yunnan Airlines, leased from Ansett Worldwide.

Airbus has already begun training pilots and technicians from Sichuan, as well as making provision for A320 spares. "We're working with Sichuan and doing everything possible to put this aircraft into service," says Airbus.

Source: Flight International