Recession stalls new jet orders
Boeing shut out at Paris Air Show as industry sags
LE BOURGET, France - Boeing didn't score a single jet order and its competitor Airbus didn't fare that much better in yesterday's opening day of the Paris Air Show, where the mood among the world's aviation industry leaders was as damp as the weather.
Worries about the unexplained crash of Air France Flight 447 hung in the air as airlines and plane makers gathered at the 100th anniversary of the world's first and largest air show. Pouring rain at the Le Bourget air field, combined with plunging revenue, layoffs, and unprecedented losses in the industry, set the stage for a modest gathering.
While defiant Boeing Co. executives said the overall prospects were robust, the Chicago-based aviation giant reported no new orders yesterday. Airbus announced just one, from Qatar Airways, for 24 jets from the A320 family worth $1.9 billion.
At the opening day of the industry's last major show, in Farnborough, England, a year ago, airlines from oil-rich Middle Eastern countries booked orders for about 150 planes worth more than $25 billion.
Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce PLC signed a $1.5 billion order with Gulf Air to supply engines for the Bahrain-based airline's new Airbus A330 long-haul aircraft. The British aircraft engine manufacturer will supply Trent 700EP engines to power 20 Airbus A330 aircraft, with deliveries beginning in 2012.
Russian plane maker Sukhoi, peddling its SuperJet 100 at the air show, netted promised orders from Hungary's Malev for 30 jets worth up to $1 billion. But it was a commercial sleight of hand, since Malev was bought by Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank in a high-profile deal earlier this year.
The SuperJet 100, seen as key to Russia's attempts to revitalize its civilian aircraft industry, is designed to fly both regional and medium-haul routes. SuperJet International is a joint venture between Italy's Alenia Aeronautica and Russia's Sukhoi Civil Aircraft.
Canada's Bombardier announced it had won, confirmed, or converted a total of 35 firm orders for its CRJ1000 NextGen jets by Spanish regional carrier Air Nostrum, in deals worth a total of $1.75 billion.
Boeing warned last week not to expect a flurry of orders. Its defense business is hoping to make up for lagging commercial sales - and weakening US military sales - through rising international exports.
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems yesterday announced the launch of an Unmanned Airborne Systems division, which will group all the company's drone projects to better compete for military contracts.
The formation of the new division reflects the growing interest by various air forces in unmanned aerial vehicles for everything from high-altitude surveillance and coastal patrols to tracking natural disasters.
Boeing's commercial aircraft chief sought yesterday to strike a positive tone.
"At this point it appears to us that the economic conditions have bottomed," said Scott Carson, president and chief executive of Boeing's commercial aircraft division. "If they have bottomed and a recovery comes next year, I think we have a shot at getting through."
He disappointed hopeful attendees who thought Boeing might spring a surprise first flight of the delayed 787 jetliner during the show. "The airplane will fly when it is completely ready," he said.