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Farnborough Airshow switches focus to sustainable aviation

The world's largest air show switches focus to sustainable aviation on Wednesday as plane makers including Boeing and Airbus and airlines discuss the prospects for greener aircraft and equipment.

Chicago-based Boeing is also expected to book more plane orders on the third day of the Farnborough International Airshow to add to its current tally of 102, compared to the firm deals of 203 signed by its European rival Airbus.

A big order was announced away from the air show when Air China Ltd. said on its website it plans to buy 45 Boeing Co. aircraft - 15 777s and 30 737s - with a list price of US$6.3 billion. Boeing officials had no immediate comment.

At Farnborough, Airbus won a multi-billion dollar order from South Korea's Asiana Airlines which ordered 30 of its medium capacity, long-range A350 XWB plans for a catalog price of US$7.2 billion (EUR 4.5 billion) before discounts. The airline also took an option for another ten A350 jets.

And Dutch leasing company AerCap became the launch customer for Airbus' new freighter version of its A320 single-aisle aircraft, agreeing to convert thirty of its already ordered passenger A320/A321s into freighters.

Middle Eastern carriers and aircraft leasing companies have so far made the biggest orders at the show outside London as soaring oil prices and anticipated decreased passenger demand thanks to credit crisis leaves many U.S. and European airlines cash strapped.

Plane makers, however, have been talking up the prospects of the current financial outlook to push forward an industry shift toward cleaner, more efficient planes. Aviation currently produces 2 percent of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions, a figure that is forecast to rise to 3 percent by 2050.

Boeing Co. has touted its 787 jet for its greater fuel efficiency, although the plane has been hampered by delays that have cost the company credibility and billions of dollars in expected additional costs and penalties.

Boeing on Tuesday said it remains on track to test fly its 787 jetliner in the fourth quarter of this year and make its first delivery in the third quarter of 2009 - but acknowledged that its timetable remains tight.

Program manager Pat Shanahan said Boeing was working to fix a recently discovered brake problem that is key to the aircraft receiving hardware qualifications in the next month or so.

Boeing has picked up a number of orders for the plane at Farnborough, including a deal for 35 of the aircraft from Etihad Airways, the state carrier of the United Arab Emirates.

Etihad has made the biggest order by an airline so far at Farnborough, splitting an order for 100 aircraft between Airbus and Boeing worth US$20 billion at list prices.

In a deal combining the Middle Eastern and leasing interest, the aircraft leasing arm of state-owned Dubai Aerospace Enterprise confirmed an order for 100 Airbus planes worth US$12.6 billion (EUR 7.88 billion) at list prices.

In another order from a leasing company, U.S. firm Aviation Capital Group announced that it has signed a firm order for 23 Airbus A320s valued at US$1.8 billion (EUR 1.13 billion) before discounts.

Leasing firms are capitalizing on the fact that carriers are more likely to rent than buy their own planes in the current climate.

Other deals have been signed by Qatar Airways, FlyDubai, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Arik Air since the show began on Monday.

At the Paris air show last year, 506 orders were taken between Airbus and Boeing. Credit Suisse had said it expected around 200-300 orders to be announced this year at Farnborough, held every other year in alternation with the Paris show.

Almost 1,500 exhibitors from 35 countries are showing off the latest in aviation technology at Farnborough. The air show runs through July 18 for aerospace professionals only; public days are July 19-20.

AP Business Writer Emma Vandore in London contributed to this report.