Air show exhibits tense US-French ties

The United States-French differences over Iraq, recession in the aerospace industry and the SARS epidemic have cast a shadow over the Paris air show opening on Saturday.


    Paris air show: Not a smooth
    takeoff this time



    Compared to the 11 US military aircraft that took part in the 2001 show, this year only five will participate. 

    Further, the US military delegation will comprise lower-ranking representatives in comparison to earlier shows. 


    US aeronautics companies have also cut down participation by 20 percent. 

    France bitterly opposed the US invasion of Iraq, and Washington had warned of consequences.

    The diluted US participation is perceived to be one among other fallouts.


    French President Jacques Chirac will launch the 45th edition of the biennial event, which alternates with the Farnborough air show near London.  


    What makes the mood even more downcast is the comparison with the 2001 show which was considered a record-setting event.


    Participation this year has been scaled back significantly, organisers admit. 


    Other problems too have added to the air show’s woes.

    Only one Russian military plane will be present, a Yak-130 trainer, as exhibitors decided not to risk bringing other aircraft for fear they might be seized in a legal dispute with a Swiss company.


    Silver lining



    This year's stars -- drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) -- will remain earthbound because a regulatory system does not yet exist to allow for security in an aerial display, organizers said.


    Only a few business deals and aircraft orders are likely to be concluded. A silver lining is the Gulf region where newer airlines have done well, and are growing.


    Airlines from this region are expected to announce the biggest contracts at the show, a split order by Emirates Airlines for Airbus and Boeing aircraft and a firm order from Qatar Airways for the purchase of two future super jumbo Airbus A380s.


    Fifty-two of the 201 aircraft on static display will perform in the skies. The event will

    see the nearly 30-year-old French-British supersonic Concorde bid farewell to the show.

    Air France retired its fleet in May.


    The show  will also pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. Thirteen historic aircraft will be on display. 



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