Wide-body battle dominates Paris Air Show

June 17, 2013 - 4:50:57 am



A Falcon 7X is on display near the Dassault Aviation chalet at Le Bourget yesterday on the eve of the opening of  the International Paris Air Show.

PARIS: The Paris Air Show, which opens for business today, brings hundreds of aircraft to the skies around the French capital, the usual tense competition between aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, and a slew of innovations large and small. Here’s what to look for over the show: 

The much-anticipated Airbus A350 flew for the first time on Friday, launching a new air race between the European plane maker and Boeing for long-haul wide-body aircraft. 

Boeing has dominated the market so far, but troubles with the lithium ion batteries in its 787 Dreamliner are giving customers a reason to give a close look at Airbus’ first all-new plane in eight years. The CEO of Airbus parent EADS, Tom Enders, has said he expects a “few hundred” new orders. Boeing executives, meanwhile, downplayed the air show’s importance for orders, noting that the two companies have historically split the commercial aircraft market. 

A year ago, at the Paris Air Show’s sister event in Britain, Boeing beat Airbus for the number of orders announced. The US company took in $37bn in orders and commitments, well above Airbus’ $16.9bn. 

But the announcements during the air shows are not always a reliable indicator of business since prices are often negotiated down heavily and big orders don’t always coincide with the event. 

The race for the title of biggest plane maker is as tight as ever. Over the whole of 2012, Airbus delivered 588 planes. That was a record, but one Boeing beat with 601 deliveries, the first time since 2003 it came out on top. 

They have swooped into wildfires to take temperatures and tracked animals across Africa. They have guided a fuel tanker to safety through icy waters. Drones are increasingly being used for non-military purposes and are expected to feature prominently at the Paris Air Show. 

There are still tough restrictions on their flight for safety reasons, but while the Federal Aviation Authority works on new rules, the makers of drones will aim to show off innovation and technical prowess at the show. Eurocopter, a company based in France, will showcase new technology that can transform a manned helicopter into one that flies without a pilot. 

American fighter jets aren’t taking to the skies above Paris, nor will they be seen on the ground, for the first time in more than two decades thanks to the US government’s spending cuts — the infamous ‘sequestration’. 

The US pavilion remains the largest, but the event will be less of a sales showcase for latest military hardware and more a place for suppliers to meet up with potential customers. 

Russia, on the other hand, is looking to make a splash by presenting fighter jets and military helicopters at the show for the first time since 2001. The Sukhoi manufacturer will showcase its Su-35, a twin-engine multipurpose fighter, for the first time outside Russia. Britain and France also will have fighter jets on display. 

AP

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