Paul Lewis/BEIJING

China's Xinjiang Airlines is waiting for central Government approval to order up to 15 new Boeing 737s and 757s after being refused permission to purchase Airbus A320/A321s.

The Urumqi-based carrier urgently needs new aircraft to revamp its fleet and to phase out older Russian-built aircraft. Xinjiang serves the underdeveloped Western half of China and has largely missed out on the numbers of 737 and 757s ordered by China Aviation Supplies (CASC) in the early 1990s.

It had originally planned to order six A320s, and a similar number of A321s, to replace its four Tupolev Tu-154Ms and three Ilyushin Il-86s. Despite signing a memorandum of understanding, Xianjiang was overruled by its parent organisation, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The 30 A320s ordered by CASC earlier this year have all been allocated to the larger CAAC-controlled carriers, China Southern Airlines, China Northwest Airlines and Zhejiang Airlines. The move is seen by many observers as further evidence of the CAAC re-asserting central control over state-owned carriers after a period of growing independence.

Xinjiang has instead been given a CAAC green light to acquire new aircraft from Boeing. It now plans to order up to ten 737-300s and five 757-200s for delivery over the next four to five years. It already operates two 737-300s, delivered in late 1993.

The deal is one of a number still awaiting the final stamp of approval from China's State Planning Commission. As political relations between Washington and Beijing finally begin to improve Boeing is increasingly confident that orders from Chinese carriers will start flowing in 1997.

Zhejiang Airlines, in the meantime, is negotiating with International Lease Finance and General Electric Capital Aviation Services for two leased A320s. The carrier is scheduled to receive the first of three CFM56-powered A320s from CASC in 1998, but says that it needs interim aircraft in 1997.

Source: Flight International