Recession, rain mar opening day

The Paris Air Show took off with a gloomy start with aviation manufacturers scrambling for big deals. Airbus was the big winner on the first day after winning a big order from Qatar Airways for 24 medium-haul A320 planes.


It was an unexciting start for the world’s largest air show on Monday in the Parisian suburb of Le Bourget but aviation manufacturers at the show tried to put on a brave face despite the driving rain and subdued mood.


Exhibitors don’t expect that this biennial Paris Air show to be as flamboyant as the 2007 edition, when long-standing rivals Boeing and Airbus were flying high after winning huge orders.


Grappling with recession this year, the two largest manufacturers may not be able to enjoy their favourite pastime: announcing large contracts and orders. This year, the 100th anniversary of the show, sees the world of aviation mourning the puzzling AF447 crash in the Atlantic, which killed 228 people earlier this month.



“Not an air show of orders”


“It’s an extremely tough year for the aviation industry,” Scott Carson, head of commercial airline business at US jet maker Boeing, told reporters at the show’s opening. The situation is similar at Airbus' parent company, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS). "This will not be an air show of orders," the company’s chief executive Louis Gallois said.


However, there was some good news for Airbus, which announced an order from Qatar Airways for 24 planes, albeit from its A320 series for single corridor planes (small or medium haul). There hasn’t been a single order for long haul aircrafts with the imposing A380 reduced to showing off its might in Le Bourget’s grey cloudy skies.


Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A400M military transporters are expected to be a no show this year. The two carriers have encountered major development delays. Boeing officials say however that the aircraft could make its first test flight before the end of June.


Instead, Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company is expected to be the talk of the week. Sukhoi unveiled its Superjet-100 series for the first time and is expected to draw attention from regional air carriers.


Celebrating 100 years

The 48th edition of the air show at Le Bourget marks its 100 year anniversary: the show was first set up in 1909 at the Grand Palais exhibition hall in Paris. To celebrate the anniversary, French military jets will colour the French skies blue, white and red next weekend for the first time since 1975.


In addition, dozens of old models will also be taking off. Among the many planes exhibited, spectators will be able to watch the mythic Bleriot XI, which French aviator Louis Bleriot flew across the English channel 100 years ago.

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