SINGAPORE AIRLINES (SIA) is expected to make a final aircraft and engine selection by the end of this month for its proposed start-up joint-venture airline in India with Tata Industries.

Competing for the order for up to 16 150-seat passenger aircraft are Boeing, with the 737-400, Airbus Industrie, with the A320, and McDonnell Douglas (MDC), which is offering the MD-90. Proposed engines include the CFM56 for the 737 and A320 and the International Aero Engines V2500 for the A320 and MD-90.

The contract calls for the delivery of 13 aircraft over four years, with options on an additional three twinjets. The as-yet-unnamed domestic carrier plans to start flying in December and hopes to have six-to-seven aircraft in service within its first 12 months of operation.

Boeing and Airbus are considered to be the leading contenders for the order, with large numbers of early-build 737-200s already in service with domestic air-taxi firms in India and 30 A320s delivered to Indian Airlines.

MDC chief executive Harry Stonecipher is believed to have proposed an $80 million industrial-offset package to India during a recent visit by a US trade delegation. SIA, however, is responsible for aircraft evaluation and the effect which Stonecipher's offer will have on the final selection is unclear.

SIA, meanwhile, has postponed making a decision on a smaller, 60- to 70-seat, regional aircraft for the new carrier until it has finalised the selection of the 150-seat aircraft.

Among the proposals are the ATR 72, de Havilland Canada Dash 8-300, Fokker 70, Avro RJ70 and Saab 2000.

The SIA-Tata joint-venture agreement is still awaiting approval from the Indian Government,. SIA sources, however, are confident that Government clearance is a matter of formality and do not expect it to delay the start-up of the new carrier.

Source: Flight International