South African Airways (SAA) is expected to finalise its fleet-renewal plans by the end of November, and the long-awaited announcement of the engine selection for its Boeing 777s could follow by mid-December.

A task force set up to study the airline's strategy for its fleet restructuring is, according to an SAA source, expected to complete its report by the end of the month. An announcement about the carrier's fleet plans is expected to follow soon afterwards.

The carrier has orders with Boeing for two additional Rolls-Royce RB.211-powered Boeing 747-400s, and a long-delayed contract for four 777-200s, plus three options. The 777 order was originally signed in December 1995, with deliveries scheduled to begin by mid-1997.

Political issues have held up the order, however, and the airline is still to announce its engine selection, although Rolls-Royce was close to a deal for its Trent 800 before the delays.

Although the two 747s are due for delivery in 1998, the schedule for the 777s is suspended until the airline informs Boeing of its plans, and picks an engine. Deliveries are unlikely to begin before 1999.

Some fleet-replacement possibilities have been studied by the SAA task force, and it is understood to have considered the interim lease of 777s from Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise (SALE).

SALE - a leasing joint venture involving Singapore Airlines and Boullioun - is in active negotiations to place the six R-R Trent 800-powered 777s on order, the first of which is scheduled for delivery in early 1999.

SALE has also been negotiating to provide EVA Airways with lease financing for new purchases, including a planned order for six A340-500/600s.

Source: Flight International