Airbus outruns Boeing at the Paris Air Show

Germany, France and Spain sign deal on European fighter jet

French President Emmanuel Macron accompanied by Defence Minister Florence Parly and Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury visit the Airbus stand at the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget.

The bi-annual Paris Air Show opened last Monday with Airbus unveiling a new jet and announcing orders for over 100 new planes, while its biggest rival, Boeing, was in retreat as it has to further defend itself over he 737 Max failure, news wires reported. Airbus' new single-aisle aircraft, A321XLR, will have a longer range than other variants of its popular A321neo, and will enter service in 2023.

Furthermore, its presentation was quickly followed by three orders. Middle East Airlines, the flag carrier of Lebanon, became the launch customer for the A321XLR by ordering four of the jets. Virgin Atlantic inked a deal for 14 A330-900s, while the largest order came from Air Lease Corporation for up to 100 planes including 27 A321XLRs and 50 A220-300s. At the same time Boeing recorded a deal with GE Capital Aviation Services for 10 converted freighters based on the 737-800, with an option for 15 additional planes.

This year's show is the biggest ever, with the number of exhibitors at the longest-running and largest aerospace event in the world exceeding 2,450. “We sold out within weeks of opening the booking in October 2018,” says air show chairman Patrick Daher. With the sector facing an increasingly influential and vocal environmental lobby, Daher says the biennial show is an ideal opportunity to promote new technologies and initiatives that are and will continue to limit its impact on the environment. These technologies include electric and hybrid-electric aircraft designs and systems, composite structures, and sustainable fuels.

Innovation is a key focus of this year’s show with the Paris air lab – a large arena dedicated to fresh inventions and technology – making its return. “We invited 75 start-up company to participate in this venue for free in 2017. The number has doubled this year and many of these ventures will be pitching their wares on manufacturers' booths, including our own,” says Daher.

Also at the show Germany, France and Spain signed a deal for a next-generation European fighter plane. The framework was agreed between the defence ministers of each nation with French President Emmanuel Macron in attendance. The arrangement will include a joint air combat system that could also control drones and satellites.

According to German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, the signing was a “big day for the European defence union.” The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is expected to be operational in just over 20 years, she confirmed: “The system will be ready by 2040, and by then we need to have found a common European solution.” The fighter jet may yet include hybrid electric technologies, meaning it will be quieter, while also reducing its heat output, ensuring it will be more difficult to detect. The deal comes at a time of fractious military solidarity between Europe and the US.

The French and German governments expect to invest an initial €4bn in the combat jet by 2025. French and Spanish defence ministers, Florence Parly and Margarita Robles, signed the accord to develop the FCAS with a model of the delta-wing aircraft in the background. “This project now has a resolutely European dimension: Spain has officially joined the programme,” Parly said. Yet, no other European nations have come on board.

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