Paris Air Show highlights health of aerospace sector

Paris Air Show highlights health of aerospace sector

Aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing racked up orders at the 50th Paris Air Show while Embraer of Brazil and prop-jet specialist ATR also hailed milestone results, signs that the sector is flying high, analysts said Thursday.

An EADS Airbus A380 flies over Le Bourget airport, near Paris on June 20, 2013 during the 50th International Paris Air Show. Aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing racked up orders at the 50th Paris Air Show while Embraer of Brazil and prop-jet specialist ATR also hailed milestone results, signs that the sector is flying high, analysts said Thursday.

Airbus was the first to release aggregate figures on firm orders and other deals such as commitments or memorandums of understanding (MOU), listing $39.3 billion (29.6 billion euros) in confirmed purchases.

Boeing the unveiled its own numbers, which showed firm orders worth $38 billion.

Including deals that remained to be finalised pushed the numbers much higher, and in all cases they represented catalogue prices which are often considerably higher than those finally paid after tough negotiations.

Both Airbus and Boeing found buyers for longer-range aircraft that consume less fuel, such as the Airbus A350 that made its first test flight last Friday.

Boeing also picked up more orders for its 787 Dreamliner, grounded for several months this year by battery problems.

Deals also focused on Airbus' single-aisle A320 series and its rival, the Boeing 737 MAX.

In terms of aircraft numbers, Boeing announced firm orders for 302 planes, in particular one from Ryanair for 175 of the 737-800 model, while the total for Airbus came to 241, many of which were bigger, more expensive planes.

Earlier this month Boeing raised its estimate for global aircraft demand over the next 20 years by 3.8 percent to 35,280 planes worth $4.8 trillion.

Aerospace analyst Howard Wheeldon urged media to look beyond the numbers, arguing that shows like those in Paris, Farnborough and elsewhere were "huge networking opportunities" where new ideas and partnerships got a boost as well.

He concluded that "despite concerns in defence and despite all the joys to be found in the commercial aerospace sector Le Bourget has done just about everyone proud."

Smaller plane makers were pleased indeed, with Paulo Cesar Silva, president of Embraer's civil aviation division, telling AFP: "The Paris Air Show 2013 has been a great show for Embraer, with the launch of the E2" family of regional jets.

"This show is the best one for us in 10 years," Silva added, as the company said it had taken firm orders worth $5.29 billion.

For ATR, a European group that makes turbo-propeller aircraft for regional markets, it was "the best show in its history," a spokesman said, with 83 firm orders, and a record total book value of $4.1 billion.

Aircraft makers are benefitting from sustained passenger growth in regions such as Asia and South America, which encourages airlines to invest.

The low-cost carrier Spirit, for example, ordered 20 Airbus A320 planes for its growing network in the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America, while British peer easyJet said it intended to buy 100 A320s.

On Friday, trade professionals anticipate an appearance by the A350 following its first test flight last week, while the Russian Sukhoi-35 combat jet impressed observers with another thunderous, cloud-ripping flyby.

The Airbus A400M military transport aircraft was another new plane that drew attention as it has finally resolved dogged teething problems and is set to enter service with the French Air Force in the coming weeks.

The cutting-edge cargo plane performed aerial demonstrations after being restricted two years ago to ground displays owing to engine problems.

Much slower, and quieter, than the sleek Sukhoi, the A400M and Airbus's A380 superjumbo airliner slipped in and out of scattered clouds with surprising grace against carefully chosen musical backgrounds.

Earlier in the day, United Airlines said it would order 10 Airbus A350-1000 long-range passenger jets in a deal worth up to $3.3 billion.

Christophe Menard of Kepler Cheuvreux told AFP the deal "is excellent news, because what is at stake is the renewal of the ageing US fleet, and this company is often considered a precurser in terms of choices."

Aircraft leasing companies emerged as important buyers meanwhile, with Hong Kong Aviation Capital signing a memorandum of understanding Thursday for 60 planes in the A320 family, worth up to $6.3 billion at list prices.

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