Farnborough Air Show orders hint at better times ahead for airlines

The aviation industry showed clear signs of recovery from recession with another slew of orders at the biennial Farnborough International Air Show yesterday.

The British no-frills carrier Flybe joined the list of major buyers as it placed a US$1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) order for 35 Embraer 175 aircraft from the Brazilian maker.

Boeing said it had agreed its second big order this week to supply Air Lease Corporation (ALC) with 54 next-generation Boeing 737-800s. The first are due for delivery in 2012, with an option for another six to follow.

The US manufacturer also announced a commitment from Royal Jordanian Airlines for three 787-8s, which have a list price of about US$500 million. The Irish leasing company Avalon is also spending US$920 million on 12 Boeing 737s.

Meanwhile, the world's biggest planemaker, Airbus, said it had reached a US$5.7 billion deal to supply Hong Kong Airlines with 25 aircraft - 15 of which will be the A350XWB model that is still in development.

Yesterday's deals followed US$18 billion of new orders confirmed on the first day of the air show.

Although unlikely to meet the record-breaking US$89 billion of deals signed at Farnborough in 2008, the aviation industry is relieved at having bettered the woeful US$7 billion total sales at last year's biennial air show in Le Bourget, France.

Flybe, based at Exeter Airport, will take delivery of its first new Embraer jet in September next year.

The order is scheduled for completion by March 2017, although Flybe has an option to add another 105 aircraft to the deal, taking the total value up to US$5 billion.

On Tuesday, Boeing said Dubai-based Emirates had agreed to buy 12 777-300s, with a list price of US$2.6 billion, while General Electric Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) had placed a US$3 billion order.

Meanwhile, Airbus signed a US$4.4 billion deal with ALC for 20 A321s and 31 A320s, a US$4.9 billion contract with GECAS for 60 A320s, and a third deal with Aeroflot for 11 A330s. Canada's Bombardier also announced a US$122 million order from Qatar Airways.

The flurry of sales follows forecasts from the International Air Transport Association that the global aviation sector would return to a US$2.5 billion profit this year after suffering losses of US$9.4 billion as the recession buffeted the industry in 2009.

Boeing's main focus at Farnborough is the British debut of its 787 Dreamliner - the much-delayed composite aircraft scheduled for its first deliveries later this year.

It has also showed off a hydrogen-powered unmanned spy plane called Phantom Eye. Staunch rival Airbus is demonstrating its delayed A400M military transporter, and the vast A380 superjumbo which can carry almost 1000 passengers.

- INDEPENDENT

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