The EADS-led AirTanker consortium is on short finals to get the 27-year UK Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) contract, worth in total $23.8 billion (Flight International, 3-9 February). It will use 16 new and used A330-200s.

If I ordered 16 brand-new A330-200s from Airbus at the top-dollar 2003 sticker price of $145.5 million each, the total cost would be $2.33 billion. Fly them for 2,500h a year each (that's a lot of tankering), and at $1,500/h all-in for maintenance/engineering, that's another $1.62 billion over 27 years. In doing so I'll burn about 200,000t of fuel a year at (say) $300/t, so that's another $1.62 billion over the life of the contract. Assume that landing, handling and route charges add another billion, and that insurance is $2 million per ship per year - $864 million over the full term. Allocate four three-person crews per ship, pay everyone $100k a year, and that adds another $518 million. Now, let's cost so far $7.95 billion. So what am I going to spend the other $15.9 billion on? Oh, of course - a billion each for converting the aircraft to tankers! Now that's what I call value for money.

Rubin Gobbs Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Source: Flight International