LE BOURGET, France: Boeing launched the biggest version of its Dreamliner plane at the Paris Air Show Tuesday with over 100 orders worth about $30 billion and a clear message — after a run of technical blows, the US firm is back on track.
The announcement failed to steal a march on arch-rival Airbus on the second day of the show with the European plane maker soaring ahead on new plane orders or agreements worth $36 billion compared to $26.2 billion for the US firm.
Smaller regional plane makers such as European manufacturer ATR also made their presence felt with multi-billion-dollar contracts propelled by demand and opportunities in Asia and South America.
“Boeing today officially launches the 787-10,” Boeing head Jim McNerney told reporters, with commitments to buy the new aircraft from United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, and leasing firms ALC and GECAS.
Boeing did not say how much the deals for the 787-10 — the biggest of the three fuel-efficient Dreamliner planes — were worth, but each aircraft costs $290 million at catalogue prices.
ALC also said it would buy three 787-9 planes and Korean Air ordered 11 long-haul aircraft.
The announcements put Boeing firmly back in the running after a slew of recent technical problems forced the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet worldwide for three months in a huge blow to the US firm — and its bosses.
“If I took off my shirt you’d see a lot of scars from the 787,” Patrick Shanahan, general manager of airplane programmes, said recently in Seattle where Boeing factories are based.
Ray Conner, head of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, told reporters earlier this week that executives at the firm were “battle-tested” after the experience.
In just over four years, Boeing should have all three versions of the Dreamliner on the market and possibly two newer versions of the 777, against just three types of A350, Airbus’s direct competitor.
Undeterred, the European plane maker got off to a roaring start at the air show — though most of its orders so far arise from the medium-haul market, which it already dominates.
— Regional transport market going strong —
Low-cost airline easyJet on Tuesday announced a deal to buy 135 of the Airbus A320 passenger planes — one of the firm’s most popular and profitable models — including 100 of new generation and more fuel-efficient neo aircraft.
And Syphax Airlines, a new carrier based in Tunisia, signed an agreement to buy three of Airbus’s new A320neo planes and three of its classic A320 aircraft.
But the European firm is seeking to unseat Boeing in the more lucrative long-haul segment with its own next-generation A350 plane, which flew for the first time on Friday ahead of the show, where it could make a brief fly-by.
The aircraft — which like the Dreamliner makes extensive use of lighter, carbon-based composite materials that reduce fuel consumption — will seek to compete with the 787 as well as Boeing’s older 777 model.
So far, though, there have been no new orders for the A350 at the air show.
Overall, if catalogue prices are used as a barometer and only firm new orders and agreements counted, Airbus has taken the lead with orders worth $36 billion so far, compared to $26.2 billion for Boeing.
Other smaller competitors in regional transport markets have also made a mark, with ATR — a joint venture between European aerospace giant EADS and Italy’s Finmeccanica — announcing one of its biggest orders.
Leasing firm Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) signed up for 35 ATR-600 aircraft built by the firm, with an option on 55 in a deal worth $2.1 billion, ATR said.
Brazil’s Embraer has also come up trumps with the launch of a new family of regional jets and 100 orders, with 215 other intentions to purchase the aircraft.
ATR said there were numerous opportunities in emerging markets in Asia and South America, adding that 30 percent of passengers worldwide travel on distances inferior to 550 kilometres (342 miles), which regional planes cover.