Paris: The world's biggest air show began with a huge order for the Airbus superjumbo, deals for Boeing's troubled Dreamliner, and a bang from thunder and lightning yesterday.
The Paris Air Show at Le Bourget started with a slew of orders for Airbus and Boeing in their constant battle for supremacy in the booming market for airliners, with strong demand from emerging markets.
The two rivals are fighting to get an edge in the market for long-haul wide-body planes at this year's show, which started north of Paris under black skies, thunder, lightning and torrential rain.
Airbus took centre stage with big deals, including a mammoth provisional order for 20 A380 double-decker superjumbos by aircraft financing group Doric with a catalogue price of about $8 billion (€6 billion).
The European manufacturer also said US aircraft leasing group ILFC had ordered an extra 50 of its new A320neo airliners — which are not yet in service — at a catalogue price of $5 billion.
German airline Lufthansa said it had completed an order, announced in March, for 100 medium-range Airbus A320 aircraft, worth €10 billion at list prices.
The order is part of a programme by Lufthansa to buy 100 Airbus planes.
The head of Boeing's commercial aviation division Ray Conner said the show was going to be a "great competition" and added that airlines would "benefit from the fact that both companies are going to have a good wide-body product line." "I think we have the better products and at the end of the day, hopefully the better product wins," Conner told reporters on Sunday, and yesterday Boeing announced several orders for its next generation 787 Dreamliner, its new 737 MAX and its existing long-haul 777 plane.
Japan's Skymark Airlines said it had put down firm orders for four 737 MAX aircraft, becoming the first Japanese airline to set its sights on Boeing's new medium-haul plane.
Leasing firm GECAS, meanwhile, ordered 10 787 Dreamliners worth $2.9 billion at list prices, while Qatar Airways announced orders for nine 777s — two firm, and seven options, worth $2.8 billion.
At last year's Farnborough show in Britain, which alternates with the Paris event, Boeing came out on top, securing orders worth around $35.5 billion, more than double the Airbus haul of $16.9 billion. This year, Airbus managed to steal a march on Boeing and other plane manufacturers before the show with the successful maiden flight of its new A350 long-haul plane on Friday.
Airbus is pinning its hopes on the fuel-efficient A350 to compete in the long-haul sector where it is still lagging behind Boeing.
It has positioned the plane for the market between the popular 777 and the 787, hoping to steal share away from both planes, arguing that its craft will consume six percent less fuel than the 787 and a quarter less than the 777.