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MDC postpones MD-XX launch to early part of 1997

McDONNELL DOUGLAS (MDC) is now hoping to launch the MD-XX stretched, re-winged MD-11 derivative at the start of 1997, says president Harry Stonecipher. MDC had been tipped to launch the MD-XX at the Farnborough air show in September, but is expected instead to give detailed briefings to interested airlines, led by American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Swissair.

MDC's Douglas Aircraft division has not yet been given approval by the board to offer the aircraft to airlines formally, says Stonecipher. "We are collecting expressions of interest," he explains. "We are testing the market. The market will tell us if we go on or not. We like the responses so far," he adds.

The MD-XX is being offered in two versions: a larger aircraft intended as a Boeing 747-200/300 replacement, with a range of up to 13,300km (7,200nm) and seating 375 passengers; and a longer-range MD-XXLR, to rival the Airbus A340 and Boeing 777, with a range expected to exceed 15,700km and seating for 310 passengers. Both are based on the same new wing.

The MD-XX is intended to replace the MD-11 on the tri-jet production line at Long Beach, California. "If the MD-XX turns out to be a no-go, then we have two other aircraft that we will look at, and, if the MD-XX goes, then we will delay before we take the next step," Stonecipher says.

He reveals that MDC is planning to stretch the MD-95 at around the same time as it is developing the MD-XX. The MD-95-50 version would be modified, giving it around 30 more seats than the basic MD-95-30 100-seater.

Financing sources suggest that MDC could announce orders for up to 100 MD-95s at Farnborough, including at least one from a leasing company. Orders would renew confidence in the MD-95 programme, after the misfortunes experienced by launch customer ValuJet Airlines. "We are accelerating through the ValuJet situation," says Stonecipher.