China Aviation Supplies (CASC) has placed a $1.5 billion order for a second batch of 30 Airbus Industrie A320/A321s, further strengthening the European consortium's growing presence in that country.

It is the biggest of three deals announced during the visit of French president Jacques Chirac to Beijing in mid-May. These include Aero International (Regional) ATR 72 sales and a co-operation agreement between Eurocopter and China Aero Technology Import & Export (CATIC)

The Airbus order consists of ten more A320s and 20 A321s, the first such Chinese order for the stretched aircraft. This latest order increases to 60 the number of Airbus narrowbodies ordered by CASC since April 1996. They are due for delivery between 1998 and 2000.

Three of the A320s will go to China Southern Airlines, to supplement 17 International Aero Engine V2500-powered aircraft already on order. Another two will go to Sichuan Airlines, which also operates three V2500-powered aircraft on lease from International Lease Finance. The Chengdu-based carrier has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Singapore Aircraft Leasing to take two A320s in early 1998.

No official decision has been announced on the end-users for the five remaining A320s and 20 A321s. According to local sources, there are "indications" that some of the A321s will go to flag carrier Air China. A final decision is expected in weeks. China Northwest Airlines is also likely to receive additional aircraft to supplement ten CFM International CFM56-powered A320s on order.

The second announcement was that (AI(R)) has signed a deal for the sale of five ATR 72-210A turboprops, plus five options, to China Xinjiang Airlines and China Aerospace Supply. A second agreement between AI(R) member Alenia Aerospazio and the Xian Aircraft factory covers production of rear fuselages for the ATR 72 .

According to Alenia, the rear-fuselage accord provides for the manufacture of up to 50% of the total production of ATR 72s.

Eurocopter, meanwhile signed a deal with CATIC to develop jointly a rotor system for 5- to 6t-class helicopters being built by Aviation Industries of China.

Source: Flight International