Aircraft maker secures 30 new sales For aircraft manufacturers, high fuel prices do have an upside as airlines are forced to buy aircraft that are more fuel-efficient. Aviation Industries Corp of China I (Avic I), a state-owned manufacturer of small to medium-sized aircraft, said it had secured 30 firm orders this year for the Modern Ark 60 or MA60, a regional commuter airliner designed and developed by subsidiary Xian Aircraft Industry (Group). It said its order backlog would increase to 158 units from 128 by the end of the year, in addition to 40 purchase options. The 30 new orders came from China, the Philippines, Tanzania and other African countries, while the existing contracts were from countries in Africa, Asia and South America. 'The MA60 is equipped with a turboprop engine that consumes 10 to 20 per cent less fuel per seat-kilometre than other turbojet engines,' said Zhang Guangjian, a vice-president of China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp at the International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Istanbul. Catic is a subsidiary of Avic I, which oversees research and development, production and sales for all military and civilian aircraft. The MA60, which can carry up to 60 passengers, is said to cost about 30 per cent less than similar aircraft from other manufacturers. Considered the most advanced turboprop aircraft, the MA60 has been popular with developing countries since it was first exported last year. Mr Zhang said Avic I was in talks with three to five European and United States airlines for MA60 orders. Once signed, the orders will be the first from western countries. Meanwhile, Airbus revised upwards its sales target for the year to 780 units, after having increased it in April to 750. 'High fuel prices act as a double-edged sword, which leaves airlines no choice but to accelerate the retirement of old fleets,' said Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy at the Iata meeting. Although some airlines postponed or cancelled Airbus orders in the first and second quarters, Airbus has increased production to meet rising demand. Its A320 production line has been expanded to produce 40 aircraft per month while production of A330s and A340s has been increased to 11 per month. 'The demand is still very solid even though there will be more and more deferred orders and cancellations coming,' Mr Leahy said. However, the overall industry is suffering from high jet fuel prices, which have surged 75 per cent in the past year. In the past six months, 24 airlines collapsed while the survivors are retiring old aircraft earlier, reducing unprofitable routes and cutting jobs to save costs. 'The industry always gets the financing it doesn't deserve and has a long history of survival,' said Steve Udvar-Hazy, the chairman of ILFC, the largest aircraft-leasing company in the world. In the next 20 years, about 24,000 aircraft would be delivered by Airbus and Boeing, Airbus estimated.