Air Transport World

A niche of its own.

The Airbus A318 seems to be carving out its own unique slot in airline fleets

On the verge of an industrial launch by Airbus Industrie, the A318 has carved out a very strong position in the battle of the 100-seat twinjets, a position made unusual by the fact that it starts delivery some three years after its chief competitor.

With orders for 80, the A318 is a stone's throw from the 115 firm orders for Boeing's 717. Boeing's sales of 65 717s in 1998 seem to have fallen short of the expectations of a company spokesman who predicted at Farnborough that "by the end of the year we will have lots of these airplanes sold (ATW 10/98, p. 101)."

Airbus, on the other hand, at Farnborough picked a brand-new engine--the Pratt & Whitney PW6000--and gave the marketing launch nod for a minimal-change airplane after what must be one of the most circuitous gestation processes m recent memory. An extended but ultimately fruitless flirtation with the Chinese aviation industry produced only a delay in Airbus's decision to proceed with its own product--a product that seems a commonsense approach to a minimum-cost development of an aircraft that won't sell in huge numbers if Airbus's forecasts are correct. …

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