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Friday, 15 June, 2001, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Paris set for air show
Conceptualisation of the Boeing 'Sonic Cruiser'
Boeing is under pressure to explain how the Sonic Cruiser will fly
The biannual Paris Air Show kicks off on 16 June and as is traditional, it will provide companies the chance to boast about orders, lambast each others planes, show off the latest designs and sell a few weapons systems.

Paris Air Show 1999
Hundreds of planes are on display at Le Bourget airport
The rivalry between Airbus and Boeing will probably dominate the eight day show at Le Bourget outside Paris, just as it does as its sister show in Farnborough.

But there are also plenty of side shows including the expected launch of the politically-fuelled Airbus A400M military transport, the return to the skies of the world's largest plane and a possible announcement of the future of Concorde.

Paris is the most important air show this year and provides aerospace companies the chance to showcase their products to customers, investors and the public.

Boeing v Airbus

Paris is the chance for Boeing to provide more details about its high-speed 'Sonic Cruiser' and prove its critics wrong.

Last year Airbus proved it could take the A380 super jumbo from the drawing board to commercial reality at Farnborough.

Boeing had derided Airbus' A380 saying there was no market for a plane of its size.

Airbus A380 super jumbo
Airbus secured enough orders to launch the A380
Earlier this year, Boeing said it would offer up the radically designed 'Sonic Cruiser' as a high-speed alternative.

The plane is designed to fly just below the speed of sound, not as fast as Concorde, and will cut an hour off the regular flight time between London and New York.

But sceptics claim the figures do not add up and doubt the Cruiser will ever get off the ground.

They have calculated that the amount of fuel it will need to travel at just below the speed of sound, the size of the plane and the number of passengers does not equal lift-off.

Boasting orders

Boeing and Airbus, in which the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) and BAE Systems are shareholders, are expected to again announce massive aircraft orders.

But analysts warn the levels this year will not match previous air shows, as falling profits and fears of over the global economic slowdown has made airlines more cautious.

Both Boeing and Airbus have healthy order backlogs, which will help offset the effects of a possible slowdown this year.

Orders are expected to be strong in the regional and executive jet market, which is considered the hot spot of the industry.

All major manufacturers such as Bombardier, Embraer, Fairchild Dornier and BAE Systems, are expected to debut new aircraft models and announce new orders.

Military manoeuvres

The future of the Airbus A400M is likely to take centre stage in the military aviation arena.

Airbus A400M military transport
The future of the A400M rests in German hands

Eight countries have signed up to receive the plan, including the UK.

However, Germany, which is making defence cuts, may not deliver the big order needed to get the plane in the air.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said he hopes to sign a deal at the air show but it is unlikely to be for the original 73 planes at a cost of $8.7bn.

The total order from European countries was expected to be for 223 A400Ms worth about $26.6bn to Airbus.

The big birds

Another announcement that will be closely watch will be on the return of Concorde after the accident last July when one of Air France's supersonic jets crashed after take-off from Paris killing 113 people.

Antonov 225
The world's largest plane flies again
French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot has indicated he could be in a position to announce favourable developments concerning the resumption of Concorde flights at the air show.

The air show will also see the return to the skies of the world's largest aircraft, the Antonov 225, which was mothballed in 1994.

This unique piece of Soviet aerospace engineering, that was designed to carry the Russian Buryan space shuttle, has been refitted as a cargo transport.

Stock markets

Whatever is unveiled or signed at the air show, it usually has a positive effect on company shares.

In recent months, aerospace and defence stocks have made gains as investors move out of technology shares.

Both Boeing and EADS have seen their stock surge to near-record highs over the past few weeks as have other firms in the sector, both in Europe and the United States.

The Standard & Poors aerospace index , which measures the performance of the major US aerospace and defence firms, hit a record high in late May and is up 24% since March.

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Business
Boeing dumps plans for super jumbo
19 Dec 00 | Business
Super-jumbo cleared for take-off
22 May 01 | UK
Concorde to fly 'by summer'
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