Paris Air Show tries to boost flight industry

French president Emmanuel Macron has jetted into the world’s biggest airshow in a sign of support for two ambitious but struggling European aerospace projects.

In his first official engagement since winning a parliamentary majority on Sunday, Mr Macron arrived at Le Bourget in an Airbus A400M military transporter, which was followed by an Airbus A380.

The A400M has seen delays and cost blowouts and the A380 has struggled due to weak sales, putting its future in jeopardy.

While superjumbos like the A380 – four engine, double-decker giants – were once seen as the future of air travel, many airlines have instead come to prefer cheaper and more agile planes.

Airbus is developing a new version of its A380 – the A380plus – which has fuel-saving wingtips, but Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier says it will only go into production if there is a “large” order.

It is just one sign of the caution in the passenger plane manufacturing market, as many companies focus on meeting tight production times for existing orders, expecting the number of new orders to slow.

Many also cut back on staff, catering and media space at the air show.

But it is not all bad news for the two main players.

A Boeing 737 Max, which has proved popular with buyers at the air show

Boeing generated some excitement at the show’s opening day when it displayed a new version of the best-selling 737 – the 737 MAX 10.

The US company said it had more than 240 orders and commitments from at least 10 customers for the new plane.

The 737 MAX 10 is a single-aisle jet which can carry up to 230 people in a single-class configuration.

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said: “The MAX 10 is going to add more value for customers and more energy to the marketplace.”

An Airbus A321 neo flies during a flying display at the first day of the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, France June 19, 2017
An Airbus A321neo during a display at the first day of the 52nd Paris Air Show

In return, Airbus said it had an order for 100 of its A321neo planes from leasing firm GECAS and 12 more from Air Lease Corporation.

Airbus sales boss John Leahy suggested that many of the orders for his competitor’s new model were from existing customers simply converting from older models.

Demand for passenger planes may be faltering but interest in military aircraft is picking up.

One of the stars of the air show is the cutting-edge F35, which gave its first aerobatic display on Monday, following a brief appearance at Farnborough last year.

Brigadier General Select Todd Canterbury, director of the US Air Force F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, told AP the display was to “showcase the capability to all of our European partners and NATO allies”.

He added that it would also “reassure them that we are committed to NATO 100 percent and that we have got the capability to respond to any action necessary”.

Lockheed Martin has almost completed a $37bn-plus deal to sell 440 F-35 fighters to 11 countries – the biggest deal yet for the warplane

But it has also seen problems, with five occasions since 2 May when pilots reported oxygen deprivation. The plane’s back-up oxygen worked and the pilots were able to land safely, but a team of specialists were “digging into this problem 24 hours a day”, Mr Canterbury said.

He added that a plane “in development… will have teething problems”.

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