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Boeing in comeback with launch of new Dreamliner

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Boeing launched the biggest version of its Dreamliner plane at the Paris Air Show Tuesday with over 100 orders worth about $30 billion and a clear message -- after a run of technical blows -- that the US firm is back on track.

The announcement came on the second day of the world's biggest air show, with competition between Boeing and its arch-rival Airbus heating up as the two giants vie for the spotlight and smaller competitors made their presence felt.

Airbus followed up huge orders on the first day Monday with a deal to sell 135 planes to easyJet.

"Boeing today officially launches the 787-10," Boeing head Jim McNerney told reporters, with commitments to buy the new aircraft from United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, and leasing firms ALC and GECAS.

The new-generation 787-10 is bigger than its two siblings in the fuel-efficient Dreamliner family, and Singapore Airlines and ALC were its two biggest customers on Tuesday, with 30 orders each.

United committed to buying 20 planes while British Airways will get 12 and GECAS 10. Boeing did not say how much the deals were worth, but a 787-10 costs $290 million at catalogue prices.

That would mean the contracts were worth $29.6 billion, although in the airline industry hard negotiation usually results in big discounts from list prices.

The announcement puts Boeing firmly back in the running after a slew of recent technical problems forced the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet worldwide for three months in a huge blow to the US firm -- and its bosses.

"If I took off my shirt you'd see a lot of scars from the 787," Patrick Shanahan, general manager of airplane programmes, said recently in Seattle where Boeing factories are based.

Ray Conner, head of Boeing's commercial airplanes division, told reporters earlier this week that executives at the firm were "battle-tested" after the experience.

The first 787-10s are due to be delivered in 2018, by which time Boeing will have three different versions of the Dreamliner on the market and a possible two newer versions of the 777, against just three types of A350, Airbus's direct competitor.

Undeterred, the European plane maker has got off to a roaring start at the air show -- though most of its orders so far arise from the medium-haul market, which it already dominates.

-- Regional transport market going strong --

Low-cost airline easyJet announced a deal to buy 135 of the Airbus A320 passenger planes -- one of the firm's most popular and profitable models -- including 100 of new generation and more fuel-efficient neo aircraft.

But Airbus is seeking to unseat Boeing in the more lucrative long-haul segment with its own next-generation A350 plane, which flew for the first time on Friday in a curtain raiser for the show.

The aircraft -- which like the Dreamliner makes extensive use of lighter, carbon-based composite materials that reduce fuel consumption -- will seek to compete with the 787 as well as Boeing's older 777 model.

So far, though, there have been no new orders for the A350 at the air show.

And overall, if catalogue prices are used as a barometer and only firm orders counted, Boeing took the lead from Airbus on the second day with orders worth $34.2 billion so far, compared to $31.5 billion for the European firm.

Other smaller competitors in regional transport markets have also made a mark, with ATR -- a joint venture between European aerospace giant EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica -- announcing a big order.

Leasing firm Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) signed up for 35 ATR-600 aircraft built by the firm, with an option on 55 in a deal worth $2.1 billion, ATR said.

NAC has a fleet of slightly more than 100 ATR regional-route aircraft and is the world's biggest operator of propellor-driven planes, ATR said.

Brazil's Embraer has also come up trumps with the launch of a new family of regional jets and dozens of orders.

This is a sign of an expected future trend of competition from manufacturers in emerging markets which are expected to generate much of the growth of passenger traffic

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130618/boeing-comeback-launch-new-dreamliner