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LAGGING ORDERS PROMPT FIRM TO PUT JET PROGRAM ON HOLD

The lagging commercial airline industry is prompting McDonnell Douglas to put its MD-12 jet program on hold and with it the hopes of nine cities, including Salt Lake City, competing for thousands of jobs.

McDonnell Douglas had hoped to cut the list of nine potential sites for its new jet plant to three or five by now. But with poor sales orders, all nine cities are still in the running."We'll continue to look at them all because they all have something to offer," company spokesman John Thom said. "We'll have a stronger sense of when we'll launch the project before we make that decision.

"In some ways, it's out of our hands, but it will happen."

The Tulsa World reported the story in Wednesday's editions.

The company plans to build a plant that would employ 5,000. The cities competing for the project in addition to Salt Lake City are Tulsa; Mobile, Ala.; Kansas City, Mo.; Shreveport, La.; Mesa, Ariz.; Belleville, Ill.; Houston and Fort Worth, Texas.

"They advised us it was still a valid project but is, in fact, on hold while they evaluate the market," said David Johnson, head of a committee to bring the plant to Tulsa.

"What that really means is that airlines are not ordering aircraft because of economic situations."

Company officials now say it will be at least late 1993 before a decision is made.

McDonnell Douglas still is working to engineer the four-engine, double-deck airliner. Thom said that work will allow the company to start work as soon as airlines are financially able to place orders for the jet.

"The bottom line is, we're just not in a position to make a commitment as large as this yet," Thom said. "As soon as the airlines are ready, we'll be ready."