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Flight 447 mystery likely to cast shadow over Paris Air Show

  • Story Highlights
  • Paris Air Show at Le Bourget this year celebrates its 100th anniversary
  • Airbus likely to face questions about Air France Flight 447
  • Airbus competes with Boeing for supremacy in commercial airliner market
  • Both companies also compete in the lucrative military aviation market
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(CNN) -- The world's premier air show takes place in Paris next week, with the recent loss of Air France flight 447 over the Atlantic Ocean likely to cast a shadow over the event.

The loss of the Air France Airbus A-330 will be one of the main talking points in Paris.

The loss of the Air France Airbus A-330 will be one of the main talking points in Paris.

The annual Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary, gives the air transport industry the chance to promote the latest innovations in aerospace technology and attract buyers for both commercial and military aircraft.

Manufacturing giants Boeing and Airbus are two of the most high-profile organizations at the show as a result of their stranglehold over the commercial airliner market. Paris provides them with a platform to demonstrate this might by announcing sales and showcasing new products.

But Airbus will be under closer scrutiny following last week's disaster off the coast of Brazil, that involved one of its Airbus A330 aircraft. Investigators remain in the dark about what caused Flight 447 to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean because the jet's data recorder has yet to be recovered. The only facts broadly agreed upon are that the airliner penetrated a region of severe weather, and the pilots were eventually confronted with a rapid series of system failures. Video Watch the latest on the crash »

The jet had been flying from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, when it went down with the loss of all 228 people on board.

Unless French air accident investigators announce something more conclusive before Le Bourget opens on Monday, it's likely that Airbus will face some awkward questions.

"I don't think people will be pushing the safety agenda necessarily," said CNN's Richard Quest. "There will be a lot of head-scratching about how it could have happened and perhaps discussions about the Airbus A330's computerized fly-by-wire technology.

"But it won't affect the show in the same way Concorde's fiery crash in 2000 affected the Farnborough Air Show which followed."

According to Kieran Daly, editor of Air Transport Intelligence, the marketing and public relations people at Airbus will be "in agony" working out how they will approach the event.

He said: "They have been postponing media events and pulling advertising temporarily in order to be sympathetic to the tragedy. However, there's an expectation in France for Airbus to be seen to be supporting the show.

"They will most likely make a statement about the crash but will not take questions about it. There's no indication that Airbus is scaling back its plans for Paris."

The Paris Air Show comes at a time when the industry is extremely stressed due to the global economic downturn. In the commercial sector, airline equipment suppliers such as Boeing, Airbus, Honeywell and Goodrich are struggling as airlines are not buying. When they do look to invest they look for rock-bottom prices.

"Ryanair are rumored to be on the verge of placing an order for a huge number of narrow-body planes from Boeing and Airbus," Daly said. "But they are fierce negotiators who look for the very best deal for them.

"On the other hand, some suppliers focus on looking after their existing clients by helping them to save money and providing additional support. They hope airlines will show their appreciation when they're in a position to place new orders."

Despite the gloom Paris shows no signs of being beset by the same problems that major trade shows in the automotive industry have faced as car makers cut their costs and choose not to attend.

According to Daly, part of the reason is that the industry is far more robust. It is dominated by a handful of major players and second tier operators that have consolidated their position in the aerospace industry.

"They are well ahead of the curve in terms of business plans and manufacturing techniques, he said. "So there is not much fat to cut compared with the car industry.

The other reason, added Daly, is the world is far more dangerous and military orders are up. "The slump in the commercial sector has been offset to some extent by the an increases in demand for military equipment.

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"The Paris Air Show is a huge marketplace for military aviation. The helicopter and fighter markets are especially buoyant as a number of countries, especially NATO members, spend seriously.

"Boeing and Airbus have been particularly successful in embracing this lucrative area."

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