Plane makers rush for Paris deals

June 16, 2009

, LE BOURGET, June 16 – The world\’s leading plane makers mount a fresh effort to nail down new deals at the Paris Air Show Tuesday, with Airbus due to face the press two weeks after the loss of one of its A330 airliners.

Airbus was the big winner on the first day of the week-long show on Monday, announcing a 1.9-billion-dollar order from Qatar Airways for 24 medium-haul A320 planes.

But the European consortium is still wrestling with the crash over the Atlantic on June 1 of an Air France A330 that took the lives of all 228 aboard and has so far defied explanation.

Industry analysts have been puzzled by the mid-flight loss of an aircraft delivered only four years earlier with a previously excellent safety record and operated by a leading world airline.

Airbus officials, who are to hold a press conference Tuesday, insist the A330 is safe and have warned against drawing conclusions as to the cause while an accident investigation is under way.

Airbus, a consortium of the French, British, Spanish and German aircraft industries, got a boost Monday when, in addition to the Qatar order, Vietnam Airlines said it was planning to buy two long-haul Airbus A350 jets and 16 medium-haul A321s.

The catalogue price for the jets is 1.9 billion dollars (1.4 billion euros).

The biennial Paris Air Show, first staged in 1909, is being held at a moment when recession-hit world airlines are grappling with crumbling demand, higher fuel prices and a wave of order cancellations that presage huge financial losses this year.
On Monday, manufacturers sought to disperse some of the gloom and doom, foreseeing a rebound in the not too distant future.

"It feels to me that we may have reached the bottom," Scott Carson, head of commercial airline business at US jetmaker Boeing, told reporters at the show.
"There is no certainty but it does feel to us that there are reasons to hope that the recovery will begin next year," he added.

Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, chief executive at Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica, also said he saw "signs of recovery" in economic activity and added: "If the crisis does not last, the negative impact will be limited."

In other news Monday, Russian-controlled Hungarian airline Malev announced plans to buy 30 Sukhoi Superjet 100 planes as the Russian aircraft maker predicted it would have 150 orders for the new jet by the end of 2009.

Sukhoi chief Mikhail Pogosian said he was aiming for 20 percent of the global market in regional passenger planes and that the new jet would get its certification in Russia in November and in the European Union during 2010.

The Superjet 100 is marketed as cheaper than its rivals, Brazil\’s Embraer and Canada\’s Bombardier, with a catalogue price of 28 million dollars (20 million euros).

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