China Airlines (CAL) is undertaking a fleet-modernisation programme, phasing out its older Boeing 747s from passenger operations, and closing on an order for ten long-range widebodies.

Two of the carrier's three remaining Pratt & Whitney JT9D-powered Boeing 747- 200Bs will be removed from the fleet for conversion by Boeing Wichita. Conversion will begin in July 1998 and March 1999, with the aircraft being redelivered to CAL as freighters in November 1998 and June 1999, respectively, increasing its -200F fleet to nine aircraft.

The final 747-200 passenger aircraft will be phased out by 1999, while a leased Boeing 747SP will be returned in January 1998. CAL's remaining two SPs, which are operated by subsidiary Manderin Airlines, and five MD-11s, will all be replaced by 10 Airbus A340-500s or 777-200Xs. The airline's final 747-400 option is also expected to be confirmed shortly.

The choice between the Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-200X is imminent, says CAL vice-president commercial Sandy Liu. Key to the selection, says Liu, will be the aircraft's versatility to operate different types of missions. The airline has expressed reservations about using a twin-engined aircraft on transpacific flights.

Source: Flight International