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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Airbus, Boeing Rake In Billions in Paris

LE BOURGET, France -- As its European rival basked in a record-setting order for 41 planes, Boeing Corp. laid out its vision for retaking the lead in the fiercely competitive aviation industry: the newly christened 7E7 Dreamliner.

At the Paris Air Show, Boeing executives confidently predicted that the comfy, sleek and fuel-efficient 200-seat jet is what customers will really want once the aviation gloom lifts.

But it was Airbus' signing of a $12.5 billion order for 41 airliners -- including the much-heralded superjumbo -- from fast-rising Gulf carrier Emirates that stole the limelight at the show.

Airbus officials hailed the deal as the largest purchase of widebody jets, both in price and number of planes. It included 20 four-engine A340s and 21 A380 superjumbos -- Airbus' planned rival to the Boeing 747.

"This will be our big order of the show," John Leahy, head of Airbus' commercial aircraft division, said on the sidelines of a news conference at the eight-day event.

Boeing inked an order of its own, though only a fraction of the size. Korean Air has signed a memorandum of understanding worth about $1.5 billion to buy nine Boeing planes including 747-400ER jumbo jets, an industry source said Tuesday. The deal comes a day after arch-rival Airbus SAS landed a sale of planes worth more than $12 billion.

"They have agreed on a deal for two new 747 freighters and seven 777s," an industry source said at the Paris Air Show.

Including earlier deals, Dubai-based Emirates has ordered 43 A380s -- by far the largest of any airline customer -- and expects to lease two more. The double-decker jet is to enter service by 2006.

With the announcement, Emirates offered new hope for a downtrodden industry following the Sept. 11 attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the SARS virus outbreak and global economic malaise.

Airbus has received a total of 116 firm orders from eight customers for the A380, and its executives were clearly happy at the deal's signing Monday.

The order was a new vote of confidence for Airbus' vision for the superjumbo. Boeing executives, however, insist the aviation market cannot absorb the hundreds of A380s that Airbus hopes to deliver.

"They'll want to celebrate now while they can, before they start having to deliver them [the A380s]," said Randy Baseler, vice president for marketing at Boeing's commercial jets division.

In an industry forecast released Monday, Boeing predicted airlines will invest $1.9 trillion in new commercial jets over the next 20 years, but only 26 percent will have two aisles or more. Only 4 percent will be as large or bigger than the 747.

The Chicago-based company projected the worldwide fleet of planes would double to more than 34,000 jets by 2022. The worldwide market for new commercial jets is expected to reach $5.2 billion, it said.

Boeing also presented its vision for the industry once the economic picture brightens.

In a challenge to Airbus' superjumbo focus, Boeing executives insisted the planned 200-seat Dreamliner is what airline customers will be looking for.

The 7E7, expected to begin operating in 2008, is the fuel-efficient heir to the ill-fated Sonic Cruiser that Boeing had been championing at the Paris show two years ago as a speedy commercial jet. The project was shelved last year after Boeing determined its customers wanted fuel efficiency more than speed.

"We've made great progress in our conversion from the Cruiser to the more fuel-efficient version," said Mike Bair, who heads the 7E7 program.

The Dreamliner is designed to be made almost entirely with technologically advanced composite materials, which are lighter and more resistant to moisture than aluminum in many jets today, Bair said. It is expected to be about 20 percent more fuel efficient than the planes flying today.

Boeing expects there is a market for between 2,000 and 3,000 7E7s over the next two decades.

The biannual air show, which has traditionally been a major venue for deal-making, first took place in 1909 -- six years after the Wright brothers' historic flight. The show ends Sunday.

(AP, Reuters)