Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

Indian Airlines has issued invitations to tender to Airbus Industrie and Boeing in a move towards a long-awaited fleet renewal programme.

Tender documents were issued to the manufacturers at the end of July, and the companies will now submit sealed bids which will be followed by new aircraft orders, says the state-owned carrier.

The airline is looking for 35-41 aircraft "depending on the choice of aircraft", with an anticipated cost of 90 billion rupees ($2 billion), which includes spares.

According to Indian Airlines, bids are expected this month. These must be evaluated, and any selection approved by the Indian Airlines board and the government. Deliveries are planned to begin in 2001, lasting five years.

Indian is considering a mix of aircraft ranging from 100 to 150-plus seats. The carrier says it is looking at "three different segments: one around 100-seats, where Boeing's 717, 737-600 and -700 are under consideration alongside the Airbus A318 and A319; a mid-size segment which could be filled by Boeing 737-800s or Airbus A320s; and a 150-plus seat segment, where the candidates are the Boeing 737-900 and the Airbus A321.

The aircraft are needed to replace Indian's Boeing 737-200s and Airbus A300s. The tender follows in the wake of the crash on 17 July of an Alliance Air-operated 737-200 which killed 51 on board and several people on the ground.

Alliance is a subsidiary of Indian Airlines, which owned the crashed aircraft, and the accident has raised questions over the failure of the government to push through the state-run carriers' fleet modernisation plans. Evaluations of new aircraft for Indian Airlines had begun in 1997, but the plans were repeatedly delayed by a combination of lack of cash, bureaucracy, and the national elections earlier this year.

The Alliance aircraft, which was 20 years old, has raised public concern over aircraft age. There is no indication as yet that the crash was a result of a mechanical failure.

Source: Flight International