SAUDI ARABIA has signed a $6 billion deal to buy 61 US-built airliners on 26 October, but details of financing have yet to be revealed. The order, to re-equip state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines, consists of 23 Boeing 777-200s and five 747-400s, worth around $4 billion, plus 29 McDonnell Douglas (MDC) MD-90-30s and four MD-11F freighters.

The Saudis have awarded the bulk of the engine orders to General Electric, selecting GE90s to power the 777s and CF6-80C2s for the 747s and MD-11s - altogether worth $1.2 billion, including spares. International Aero Engines values its order for V2500s to power the MD-90s at $420 million.

Deliveries will begin in 1997 and continue until 2001. Saudia Arabia has selected the 400kN (90,000lb)-thrust growth version of the GE90 to power its increased gross-weight 777s. GE says that the first full-engine test of the growth GE90 is imminent, with certification scheduled for early 1996.

All 61 aircraft are on firm orders, with no options. Boeing says that the Saudia order takes 777 sales to 177 aircraft, and 747 sales to 1,171. MDC says that it now has firm orders in hand for 95 MD-90s and 26 MD-11s. The MD-90s will be used on domestic flights and the MD-11Fs for cargo services to Europe.

The Saudis appear to have decided to finance the deal domestically, rather than seek US Export Import Bank support. Difficulty in arranging financing is believed to be responsible for the delay in signing the deal, which was first announced in 1993.

Source: Flight International