Airbus’s largest jet order in history to benefit SA industry

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Airbus has announced what it says is the largest single firm order for large jets in commercial aviation history. IndiGo, India’s largest low-cost carrier, has agreed to purchase 180 new Airbus A320 aircraft in an order that also promises to deliver substantial business to South African firms sub-contracted to the global planemaker.

IndiGo signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 30 A320s and 150 A320neo single-aisle jets, becoming the launch customer for the new variant, which was launched last month and which will be available from 2016. The A320neo (new engine option) incorporates new, more efficient engines and large wing tip devices called Sharklets to deliver fuel savings of up to 15%, which represents up to 3600 tonnes of CO2 annually per aircraft, Airbus said in a statement. In addition, the A320neo provides a double-digit reduction in NOx emissions and reduced engine noise, the statement added. The A320neo will have over 95% airframe commonality with the A320 Family whilst offering up to 950 km more range or two tonnes more payload. Airbus offers a choice of CFM International or Pratt & Whitney engines for the A320neo. IndiGo will announce its choice at a later date.

Although the value of the sale was not announced, the catalogue price of the aircraft prices the deal at around $16 billion, according to Indian news company NDTV.
“This order for industry leading fuel efficient aircraft will allow IndiGo to continue to offer low fares,” said Rakesh Gangwal and Rahul Bhatia, co-founders of IndiGo. “Ordering more A320s was the natural choice to meet India’s growing flying needs. The opportunity to reduce costs and to further improve our environmental performance through the A320neo were key to our decision.”

John Leahy, Chief Operating Officer Customers at Airbus said, “This order positions IndiGo to take full advantage of the predicted growth in Indian air travel and we are delighted that they continue to build their future with Airbus.”

IndiGo is a private low-cost airline that commenced operations in 2006 and currently operates domestic services linking 25 destinations in India, according to their website. The airline is planning an ambitious expansion project and aims to fly international routes after completing its mandatory five years of domestic operations in August 2011, according to IBN Live. IndiGo’s latest order follows on from a 2005 order for 100 A320s, says Airbus. By 2016 Indigo will have roughly 75 aircraft in its fleet and will use the new aircraft to phase out some of the older ones, meaning a net increase of 100 aircraft between now and 2022, IBN Live reports.

The IndiGo deal means good news for South African companies such as Centurion-based Aerosud, which is the exclusive supplier of A320 flap-track cans (housings) – essential wing components that house the mechanisms which drive the wing flaps that help to control the aircraft during take off, approach and landing. It also manufactures the A320 avionics bay racks and sheet metal parts for the wings, according to Aerosud, as well as supplying parts for other Airbus aircraft like the A350. In addition, Cape Town-based Cobham-Omnipless will benefit as it supplies satellite communications antennae for the A320, as well as other Airbus jetliners.

In September 2010 Airbus announced that it had entered into contracts worth R4 billion with Aerosud, Cobham-Omnipless and Denel-Saab Aerostructures (DSA). Of that, R500 million was for work related to the upcoming A350.



Simon Ward, Deputy Head of International Operations at Airbus, said last year that South Africa is Airbus’s biggest joint venture partner in Africa, with Tunisia and Morocco coming in behind. In addition, DSA and Aerosud are the only companies outside of Europe that manufacture sections for the A400M. Ward praised South African expertise and called its engineers innovative.