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Plane Makers Land Fewer Deals at Paris Air Show

Sales fell to $32 billion from $45 billion in 2001, says Yves Bonnet, director of the event.

June 23, 2003|From Associated Press

Deal making declined nearly 30% at the Paris Air Show from two years ago, but organizers said Sunday that they are hopeful economic conditions will improve in time for the next show in 2005.

The show wrapped up, opening its doors to the public for one final day of aerial displays by about two dozen aircraft.

Yves Bonnet, who heads the air show, said the total value of deals announced at the eight-day show fell to $32 billion from about $45 billion in 2001.

"It's a drop, but far less than we could have feared," Bonnet said in an interview at the suburban Le Bourget airport.

"This was a good air show given that the industry is in crisis."

At the height of the Cold War, the air show was a major deal-making venue. Soviet and American defense firms pitched their wares and technologies side by side, and rival plane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing Co. would announce scores of new orders at the show.

This year, the airline industry is struggling to survive after the Sept. 11 attacks, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and general economic gloom.

European plane maker Airbus was the big winner in sales, announcing about $20 billion in preliminary aircraft deals and firm orders from Emirates Airline, Korean Air Lines Co. and Qatar Airways Group.

Archrival Boeing received a preliminary deal to sell nine planes worth about $1.5 billion to Korean Air.

Another highlight of the show was cooperation agreements signed between Russian defense and aerospace company Sukhoi and French engine maker Snecma, European defense giant EADS and French jet maker Dassault Aviation, Bonnet said.

The American presence was sharply curtailed this year.

U.S. military officials said demands in Afghanistan and Iraq required their aircraft and pilots to remain deployed -- but many perceived the absence as a payback to France because of differences over the war in Iraq.

Only 206 planes were on display this year -- 20 fewer than at the last show in 2001 -- and exhibit space declined 5%. The show first was held in 1909, six years after the Wright brothers' historic flight.

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