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US Airways plans to purchase 30 more jetliners from Airbus

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Airbus will sell as many as 30 more jets to US Airways, the two firms said Thursday, in another step by the European consortium toward equal footing with the Boeing Co.

The U.S. airline, which already has ordered more than 100 planes from Airbus, is to buy up to 30 more widebody A330-300s, officials said in a joint statement.Airbus said the deal was the first time a U.S.-based airline had ordered one of its fly-by-wire widebody jets - planes that have fully computerized guidance systems that perform many tasks previously done by pilots.

Boeing has long dominated the market with its conventional technology and only recently began to compete with Airbus with the new technology.

"U.S. Airways will have the most modern fleet in the air within just a few years time," U.S. Airways Chairman Stephen Wolf said in a statement before a planned Paris news conference with Airbus Managing Director Noel Forgeard.

The agreement, which could total $3.7 billion, includes firm orders for seven planes, seven more subject to confirmation and options on 16 others, a source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The order followed Airbus's announcement Wednesday that Air France signed for 40 planes, half of them firm orders.

Airbus also was negotiating a deal to sell at least 70 planes to British Airways, a sale that would break Boeing's grip on the last major European carrier never to order an Airbus.

British Airways was expected to discuss the order during a board meeting Friday.

The sale also comes on the heels of a deal announced last month to sell 76 single-aisle A320s and A321s to Spain's Iberia, replacing aging Boeing 727s and DC9s. Airbus said it was its largest ever order placed by a European carrier.