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Why Airbus will dominate Paris Airshow

By Scott Hamilton, for CNN
updated 5:21 AM EDT, Mon June 17, 2013
Airbus' A350 XWB flew for the first time on Friday.
Airbus' A350 XWB flew for the first time on Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Airbus and Boeing both expected to make large order announcements at Paris Airshow
  • French government is known to pressure Airbus to make a good showing on home turf
  • Boeing has two large aircraft programs in the works
  • Embraer has been working diligently to line up solid orders to announce at the show

(CNN) -- At every international airshow, there's a race to garner the most headlines, the most orders, the best visuals and the best sound bites.

Usually, however, Europe's Airbus comes up the winner.

This is particularly true at the Paris Airshow (which starts Monday and runs till Friday), where Airbus always makes a special push to win the headlines war.

Airbus, of course, is headquartered in Toulouse, France, an hour's flight south of Paris.

Government pressure

Aside from the aggressive competitiveness of Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy, who can't tolerate being second at any time and who rarely misses any opportunity to tweak Boeing, the French government is also known to pressure Airbus to make a great showing.

This 2013 Paris Airshow takes place this week. It\'s the aviation industry\'s most important event of the year.
This 2013 Paris Airshow takes place this week. It's the aviation industry's most important event of the year.

Boeing conceded the point long ago.

"We know Airbus sees this as a competition on their home turf. In terms of orders, we see this as one week out of 52," admits Boeing's Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth, the company's most visible communications counterpart to Leahy. (Leahy's actual counterpart, Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Aircraft, tends to keep a low profile.)

"Despite the wave of orders our competition rolls out at airshows, the market has still been roughly split down the middle over the past decade," says Tinseth.

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High expectations

Leahy declined in a recent interview to predict how many orders he'll have to announce at the airshow, but skipped the Airbus Innovation Days international media briefings on June 5 and 6 -- an unusual absence -- to go globe-trotting for orders in time for the show.

He's expected to announce hundreds.

The A350 XWB -- the new, composite rival to the Boeing 787 and aging 777 -- is widely anticipated to make a flyover at this year's event.

Some question the wisdom of even a flyby, as the A350 will have few test flights under its wing at that point.

Airbus sends first A350 XWB into the sky

But the French government wants to showcase the plane and so does Airbus.

Boeing strikes back

Boeing is expected to announce hundreds of orders.
Boeing is expected to announce hundreds of orders.

Boeing won't leave all its pizzazz at home.

The formal program launch of its 787-10 is expected (although Boeing won't officially say so) and scores of orders are expected to accompany the announcement.

Singapore Airlines has already said it will take 30 of the airplanes.

British Airways is also presumed to be a launch customer.

Boeing is also expected to announce several customers who have signed up for "commitments" for the 777X, although the program launch is considered likely for the Dubai Airshow slated for November 17-21.

Emirates Airlines (headquartered in Dubai) is assumed to be a launch customer for as many as 100 of the new version of the venerable airplane.

Thus, with two new airplane programs and hundreds of orders and commitments anticipated, Boeing could conceivably "win" this year's show.

But video footage and pictures of the flyby of the A350 will be hard for Boeing to beat with artist renderings and sound bites.

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Other competitors

Embraer, which makes the popular E-Jet in the 70-122 seat market, is expected to formally launch its re-engined design of the E-175/190/195. (The 170 appears on its way out.)

The upgraded E-Jet will feature new wings, new systems, geared turbo fan engines by Pratt & Whitney and room for an additional eight to 12 passengers.

Embraer has been working diligently to line up solid orders to announce at the show.

Bombardier, on the other hand, doesn't traditionally do well at airshows.

Orders for its CSeries have been few and far between at these events, in part because Canadian securities laws require announcements within 24 hours of the signing of even letters of intent, making it virtually impossible for Bombardier to cluster announcements.

The first flight of the CSeries will almost certainly miss the airshow, but is expected the next week.

Bombardier will have to be content talking about tests leading up to the first flight, revealing an unidentified customer's identify (possibly Odyssey Airlines, based on an executive's slip of the tongue at an industry event) and perhaps some small order announcements.

So, with all this activity, maneuvering and posturing, who will "win" the Paris Airshow?

Airbus, of course.

Scott Hamilton is an aviation writer and managing director of Leeham Co., which provides consulting services to the aerospace industry.

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