Plane rivals vie for sales at air show

Newest designs on display as plane manufacturers compete for business at industry showcase.

Air show france

Orders are flying in for two of the worlds’ largest plane manufacturers at the International Air Show in France, the world’s largest and oldest aviation showcase.

More than 2,100 exhibitors from 45 countries signed up to take part in the event, according to event organisers.

European aviation giant Airbus has signed deals to sell 142 planes, worth $15 billion at list prices, the company said on Monday.

Its American rival Boeing received commitments worth $11 billion for 56 of its jets, it said.

But it wasn’t all good news for Airbus at the show as one of its flagship A380 ‘superjumbos’ – the world’s biggest passenger jet – clipped a wing while landing, forcing the manufacfturer to withdraw the plane from the show.

Airbus also announced on Saturday that two of the three versions of its new jet, the A350, would be delayed by about two years, while the third, the A350-1000, would be pushed back to 2017.

Airbus officials said its engine supplier, Rolls Royce, needed time to develop a more powerful engine that would extend the jet’s range.

Qatar Airways, the launch customer for the A350, said half of the 80 A350s it had ordered would be affected by the delay.

“This will dent our expansion and fleet placement programme,” Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, told reporters. “It is very disappointing to us.”

Airbus’ chief salesman, John Leahy, defended his company’s decision, saying the revamped A350-1000 would outperform rival Boeing’s 777-300ER by flying 400 nautical miles further while burning 25 percent less fuel.

“Yes, we were supposed to come out in 2015, but customers said give us some extra performance and we can take the delay,” he said.

Challenging environment

Despite a challenging environment for an industry which faces high fuel prices and a slowing global economy, sales and pre-sale agreements on the first day of the show were up on recent years.

Energy-efficient models took centre stage at this year’s show. Displays included bio-fuel and hybrid engines as well as a solar plane.

Boeing and fuel company Honeywell both showcased breakthroughs in biofuel-powered air travel.

Boeing flew in its 747-8 freighter from Seattle on a mix of bio-fuel and jet fuel. Honeywell also said that it used “green jet fuel” to fly in a Gulfstream business jet from New Jersey.

Aerospace group EADS, owner of Airbus, said it was working on a hypersonic jet that could cut flight times between Paris to Tokyo to as little as two and half hours. 

The 50-100 passenger plane, developed in collaboration with Japan, would take off from a regular runway, but rocket boosters would kick in to send it soaring above the atmosphere.

The company plans on having an unmanned demonstrator by 2020, but EADS boss, Louis Gallois, said it could be another 30-40 years before commercial flights are a reality.

“We’re not talking about a product that we launch in the next few years. We have to see security, integration of different technologies, how man reacts to it.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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