Airbus, Boeing shine at Paris Air Show

Aerospace heavyweights Airbus and Boeing slugged it out Thursday for the lead in total orders at the 50th Paris Air Show, while Embraer of Brazil hailed its best showing in 10 years.

Airbus was the first to release figures on firm orders and total deals that included memorandums of understanding (MOU), announcing $39.3 billion (29.6 billion euros) in confirmed purchases.

Boeing was to disclose its own numbers later in the day, but based on deals announced so far, it has already booked firm orders worth $38 billion.

Both airlines have found buyers for longer-range aircraft that consume less fuel, such as the Airbus A350 model that made its first test flight last week, and its US rival the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, grounded for several months earlier this year owing to battery problems.

Other civilian aircraft deals have focused on Airbus' popular single-aisle A320 series and its rival, the Boeing 737 MAX model.

Meanwhile, Paulo Cesar Silva, president of Embraer's civil aviation division, told AFP: "The Paris Air Show 2013 has been a great show for Embraer, with the launch of the E2" family of regional jets.

"This show is the best one for us in 10 years," Silva added, as the company said it had taken firm orders worth $5.29 billion and now accounted for 40 percent of its short-haul market, compared with 29 percent for Canadian rival Bombardier.

Thursday saw a slew of new orders for Airbus, while Boeing appeared to be keeping its powder dry as rain drenched this business airport north of Paris where the air show takes place every two years.

Trade professionals looked forward to an appearance Friday by the A350 after it made its first test flight last week in southern France and a thundering demonstration flight by the Russian Sukhoi-35 combat jet was also in the cards.

The Airbus A400M military transport aircraft was another new plane that drew attention as it has finally resolved dogged teething problems and is set to enter service with the French Air Force in the coming weeks.

The cutting-edge cargo plane made its first air demonstration over Bourget this week after being restricted two years ago to ground displays owing to an engine problem.

The Paris show is first and foremost a commercial event and new orders unveiled Thursday included one by low-cost US carrier Spirit for 20 Airbus A321ceo (current engine options) planes.

That deal was worth $2.1 billion at catalogue prices, which serve mainly as a reference in the air industry.

Spirit also upgraded an earlier order for smaller planes from the A320 family to be used in its growing network that covers the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Earlier in the day, United Airlines said it would order 10 Airbus A350-1000 long-range passenger jets in a deal worth up to $3.3 billion, and would upgrade a previous order for 25 of the smaller A350-900 version to the -1000 model as well.

"Less than a week after the success of the A350's first flight, we see that demand for the new aircraft continues to grow, especially for the larger -1000 model," Airbus president and chief executive officer Fabrice Bregier said.

Aircraft leasing companies also emerged as important buyers with Hong Kong Aviation Capital signing a memorandum of understanding on 60 planes in the A320 family worth up to $6.3 billion at list prices.