Singapore carrier weighs up Airbus A330/A340s against Boeing 777 and 7E7 for 50-aircraft fleet modernisation order

An order for up to 50 widebody aircraft is expected from Singapore Airlines (SIA) in around two months as its long-awaited fleet modernisation nears finalisation.

Chief executive Chew Choon Seng says: "We are looking at least at an order for 50 aircraft. That would include both firm orders as well as options," he says, adding that deliveries would begin around 2006.

"The proposal that we put out is for all of our systemwide needs, for renewal as well as for growth."

SIA issued requests for proposals in February, seeking new aircraft to replace some of its older Boeing 747-400s as well as its phased-out Airbus A310-300s.

Chew confirms that Airbus is offering a mix of A340-600s and A330s, although he says the manufacturer's proposed lighter version of the A330-200, which would be designed to counter Boeing's 7E7 has not been formally offered.

According to Airbus vice-president marketing Colin Stuart, the A330-200 "lite" is simply a shorter- range version of the standard aircraft certificated at a lower weight to reduce its purchase price, with derated thrust to increase engine life. "The aircraft will have a certificated [maximum take-off] weight of 202t while the lower engine rating will provide a significant improvement in life-cycle costs," he says.

Chew also confirms Boeing is offering its 777-300ER as a 747-400 replacement, as well as its ultra-long-range 777-200LR and the 7E7. SIA already operates the ultra-long-range A340-500 and there are suggestions Boeing may offer 777-200LRs in a bid to have the carrier dispose of its Airbus aircraft.

SIA has long said the A330-200 is too heavy for its requirements, although industry sources have said Airbus will be promising deliveries of its proposed lighter -200 variant well before the 7E7's service entry in 2008.

But Chew says: "That is a new development they are planning, but it has not been specifically offered so we have no details of it."

He adds: "The 7E7, according to the specs we have received from Boeing, comes close to being a good candidate. The A330-200 [the lighter version], we do not have enough details on that yet. I have heard the statements made by Airbus about the aircraft...but they have not tabled it and offered it to us officially."



Source: Flight International