Jet makers rack up orders

Airbus, Boeing sign more than $25 billion in orders at air show
A Korean Air Airbus A380 performed its demonstration flight Monday on the first day of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport, where big sales were made.

LE BOURGET, France --- Airbus and Boeing signed more than $25 billion in orders to kick off the Paris Air Show on Monday, but the European jet maker's appearance at the industry's biggest annual event sustained a setback when its superjumbo clipped a wing.

The haul from the first day of the show was an improvement from recent years despite a challenging environment for the industry, which faces high fuel prices, a slowing economy and uncertainty caused by violence in the Middle East and Japan's natural disasters.

Airbus topped the totals, signing orders and commitments for 142 aircraft worth $15 billion at list prices, the company said Monday.

Of note were firm orders for 90 of its A320neo, a version of the workhorse jet that's been revamped to make it more fuel-efficient. Rival Boeing countered with more than $11 billion in orders and commitments for 56 of its jets.

Airlines are particularly interested in energy-efficient models at this year's show -- displays included biofuel and hybrid engines.

One star, Airbus' superjumbo A380, was grounded after breaking a wing tip on a taxiway structure, the latest in a string of embarrassments for the company.

Airbus quickly found a replacement jet for demonstration flights during the air show, an A380 operated by Korean Air. But the plane maker is facing other setbacks.

The Airbus A400M military transport plane had to cancel a demonstration flight because of what the manufacturer described as a minor gearbox problem, although the aircraft made a fly-over during President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to the air show Monday.

On Saturday, Airbus announced that two of the three versions of its new wide-body jet, the A350, would be delayed about two years.

Airbus' chief salesman, John Leahy, defended the delay, saying the revamped A350-1000 would best rival Boeing's 777-300ER by flying 400 nautical miles farther while burning 25 percent less fuel.

Airbus' first big order Monday was from GE Capital Aviation Services, for 60 A320neo jets..

Boeing hasn't yet chosen how it will respond, but top marketing executive Randy Tinseth said it would decide in the coming months whether to upgrade its existing 737 model or design a new plane, which wouldn't be in the air until the end of the decade.

Qatar Airways announced an order for six Boeing 777 planes in a $1.7 billion deal at the start of the show Monday.

Boeing and Honeywell are both boasting of having the first biofuel-powered trans-Atlantic flight, with Boeing flying in its 747-8 freighter from Seattle on a mix of biofuel and jet fuel, while Honeywell touts the "green jet fuel" it developed to power a Gulfstream business jet that flew from New Jersey to Le Bourget.

Based on 2010 deliveries, Boeing is the world's No. 2 commercial jet maker after Airbus. Airbus delivered 510 commercial planes last year, compared with 462 for Boeing.

More