Farnborough Air Show

Libya enters new jet age

 - November 27, 2006, 10:41 AM

Airbus placed itself in a position to land the first significant civil aircraft order from a Libyan airline in 30 years when it signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday to supply Tripoli’s Afriqiyah Airways with six A320s, three A319s and three A330-200s. The deal also grants the airline options on five A319s and three A330-200s.

As its economy emerges from trade sanctions imposed as a response to state-sponsored terrorist acts in the 1980s, Libya has desperately sought to improve its transportation infrastructure and expand its airlines’ international reach. But not until last week, when the U.S. lifted restrictions on the export of aircraft with U.S.-made parts to Libya, could the Libyans make any serious progress toward fleet modernization. Scheduled for delivery from next year into 2009, the A320-family jets will cover routes connecting Tripoli with 17 destinations in North-, West- and Central Africa and the Middle East, as well Paris, Brussels, Geneva, London, Rome and Amsterdam.

“It is definitely a big boost to a new start to the air transport business in Libya,” said Afriqiyah CEO Abdallah Sabri Shadi. “I think we will see more demand from new operators for Airbus or Boeing.” Captain Sabri said the airline has yet to choose an engine supplier.

Bashir Saleh, the president and director of the holding company that owns Afriqiyah–the $5 billion Libya Africa Portfolio–and chief of staff to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, spoke of his boss’s desire to develop Libya into a “modern” country and unite the African continent economically and politically. “One day you will see a big cooperation in a United States of Africa,” he said.  

Afriqiyah’s dual-class A320s and A319s would carry 150 and 124 passengers, respectively, and its A330s would seat 253 in a three-class configuration.   

As part of a larger project between EADS and the Libyan authorities, Airbus will help Afriqiyah establish a pilot and maintenance training center as well as a maintenance base in Tripoli.