Crash of A320 May Be Damaging to Airbus, Analysts Say With AM-France-Crash Bjt
NEW YORK (AP) _ The crash of an Airbus A320 jetliner during a demonstration flight in eastern France could make potential purchasers of the plane wary and hurt its manufacturer, some airline analysts suggested Monday.
While the dust still settles on the crash site near France’s border with Switzerland, the destruction of the highly computerized aircraft has raised questions about the A320′s safety and the potential impact on Airbus Industrie, the European consortium that builds the plane.
The incident Sunday, in which three persons were killed and 50 injured, also focuses attention on the trend toward more technology and fewer pilots, as newer planes rely on two pilots instead of the usual three.
″It’s obviously not good,″ said Anthony Hatch, an airline analyst for Argus Research Corp.
The accident could inflict ″psychological″ damage on the highly touted A320 and prompt canceled orders and lost sales, Hatch said.
The Airbus consortium, financed by the governments of France, Britain, West Germany and Spain, competes intensely with U.S. aircraft makers Boeing Co. and McDonnell Douglas Corp.
The crash of the A320 ″does help Boeing somewhat; it’s hard to say how much,″ said Bill Gorman, an aerospace analyst for Provident National Bank in Philadelphia.
The A320 competes most closely with newer versions of Boeing’s 737 and with McDonnell Douglas’ MD-80 - which also are relatively small planes ideal for shorter hauls. But the U.S. planes are less technologically advanced than the Airbus jet.
Air Canada, on the verge of buying 33 A320s, said Monday it will keep close tabs on the French government’s inquiry into the crash. Airbus is believed to be close to winning the Air Canada contract over Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.
The ″fly-by-wire″ A320, which carries about 150 passengers, uses 40 percent less fuel than similar aircraft and is the fastest-selling plane in aviation history.
Only four of the new planes are in service. Two are operated by Air France -besides the one destroyed in the crash - and two by British Airways. But more than 500 have been ordered by 21 customers worldwide, including the French and British carriers.
In the United States, Northwest Airlines has ordered 100 of the planes, in a deal valued at $3.2 billion.
″I doubt (the crash) would have an impact on our decision to purchase from Airbus,″ Northwest Airlines spokesman Alan Muncaster said. ″But obviously we would want to check into the cause of the crash.″
Pan Am Corp., another major U.S. airline, has ordered 16 A320s for $488 million - with an option to buy 34 more. It would be ″premature″ to re- evaluate that decision until the full results of the crash inquiry are in, Pan Am spokeswoman Pamela Hanlon said Monday.