China Aviation Supplies (CASC) has begun the process of allocating a second batch of recently ordered Airbus Industrie A320/A321s, while China Southwest Airlines has signed an agreement to take three Airbus A340-300s previously destined for China Eastern Airlines.

The state-owned corporation is being lobbied by existing and would-be local Airbus operators wanting to secure new jet-powered aircraft. CASC is expected to decide shortly on the final disposition of 20 A321s and five remaining A320s still unallocated from its $1.5 billion order placed in May.

China Eastern is understood to be asking for ten of the CASC aircraft. This would be in addition to ten A320s for which the airline recently signed a letter of intent to lease from General Electric Capital. The aircraft, the first due for delivery in early 1998, are a trade-in for ten Fokker 100s, which will go to Brazilian airline TAM.

Local sources say that two of the A321s are earmarked for Sichuan Airlines, to supplement its three International Aero Engine V2500-powered A320s leased from International Lease Finance. Sichuan has already been allocated two more A320s from CASC for delivery in February and June 1998, and is seeking approval to lease in an additional one from Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise from December.

Other A320 operators looking for further aircraft include China Northwest Airlines and China Southern Airlines.

Guangzhou-based China Southern has already secured three more A320s from May's order, to increase its fleet to 20, including six in service. It is now seeking larger-capacity A321s. China Northwest is also looking for follow-on aircraft to ten A320s ordered in 1996.

China Southwest has a requirement for a new narrowbody and is viewed as another possible A320-series operator, say local observers. The Chengdu-based airline is closely associated with China National Aviation, which owns controlling stakes in Air Macau, Dragonair and Zhejiang Airlines, all of which operate A320/A321s.

The airline, in the meantime, has concluded an agreement to take three A340s from October 1998 in place of three planned additional Boeing 757s. They were among six A340s ordered by CASC in 1994 originally for China Southern, but which it refused to accept. Air China has agreed to take three, but China Eastern, disappointed by the A340's performance, will not take the remaining three off CASC's hands.

China Eastern is to take delivery of the first two Boeing MD-90 TrunkLiners on 13 October. The carrier has ordered nine aircraft and China Northern a further 13. Roll-out of the first Shanghai Aviation Industrial-built MD-90 has slipped from April 1998 to the end of the year.

Source: Flight International