At the Paris air show, the competition between the world's two biggest makers of civilian aircraft was clearly in Airbus' favour with the score standing at 64 to nine on Thursday.

  

Head of Boeing's commercial aircraft division Alan Mulally refused to say how many orders his group expected to receive this year.

  

The civilian version of Boeing's 767 is not attracting many buyers. Yet the company insists it is not quitting the commercial aircraft business.

 

Defence orders

  

"We are not on a path to get out of commercial airplanes," Chairman Phil Condit said, in a newspaper interview.

 

In recent years, Boeing’s defence unit has contributed almost as much to the group's bottom line as passenger jets, a sector in which Airbus may have surpassed the Chicago-based competitor.

 

Airbus: Flying high

The US armed forces and governmental organisations account for 90 percent of Boeing's defence sales, chief of its defence unit Jim Albaugh was quoted as saying by news reports. 

 

Boeing's goal is to "attain two-digit profitability within five years" and sales of more than 40 billion dollars by 2007, Albaugh added.

  

Corroborating the trend, a study by two US universities said Boeing could halt commercial plane production within 10 years to focus on military aircraft.

  

The defence and high technology sectors provided greater profits than those made in the civil aviation sector, the study found.

  

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) -- which owns 80 percent of Airbus -- would also like to increase its defence activities, now responsible for 20 percent of its total sales.

  

Defence sales at the group are expected to increase by 60 percent between now and 2005, EADS co-president Philippe Camus said.