Asia's biggest air show begins in Singapore

Aviation companies opened Asia 's largest air show Tuesday with fiercely competitive campaigns aimed at coaxing China , India and other regional customers to splurge on superjumbos and sophisticated jet technology. Airbus flew in the world's largest passenger plane, the A380, to awe potential purchasers at the Asian Aerospace exhibition in Singapore , while rival Boeing Co. urged carriers to consider acquiring the wide-bodied 747-8, a more fuel-efficient version of the old workhorse jumbo that is expected to be ready for delivery in 2010.

Other heavyweights such as the largest U.S. defense contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., Sweden's Gripen-SAAB, Dassault Aviation of France and Russian manufacturer Sukhoi showcased cutting-edge combat aircraft for countries across Asia that are boosting their defense budgets.

" Asia is becoming a huge market for the aerospace industry," said Ghazemy Mahmud, the Malaysian-based editor of the Asian Defense Journal. "Countries here are developing swiftly, and their purchases of commercial and military aircraft are speeding up together with their economic growth." The most lucrative clients look to be China and India . China expects to buy about 100 planes a year during the next five years, while India 's aviation sector is booming with an average passenger growth rate of between 25-30 percent in recent years.

This year's Asian Aerospace conference, which runs through Sunday, has more than 930 exhibitors from 43 countries. At least 27,000 trade representatives are expected at the biennial show, which ranks third globally behind shows held in alternating years in Paris and Farnborough, just outside London . The rivalry between Chicago-based Boeing and Toulouse, France-based Airbus is taking center stage.

Airbus was flying high after finalizing a deal with Indian airlines on Monday to sell 43 A320 and A319 passenger jets for US$2.5 billion ( Ђ 2.08 billion). Boeing struck back Tuesday, announcing that Indian carrier Spicejet Ltd. has ordered 10 aircraft and taken an option to order another 10.

The order, which exercises an existing option, is for five 737-800 series planes and five 737-900ER series planes, the companies announced in Singapore . The aircraft have a list price of around $70 million ( Ђ 58 million) each. Airbus has the aerospace show's star attraction with the double-decker A380, which will overtake Boeing's 747 as the world's largest commercial jet when it enters service with Singapore Airlines Ltd. by the end of the year. Seven airlines in the Asia-Pacific have ordered a total of 49 A380s, which can seat 550 passengers in three classes or 800 passengers in a single class.

Airbus' chief operating officer John Leahy said Monday that deliveries won't be held up after the jet failed a wing stress test last week. Meanwhile, Boeing is lobbying carriers to order the 450-seat 747-8 and its wide-body sibling, the 777, which is competing with Airbus' A340.

Boeing won 154 orders for the 777s in 2005, while the A340 attracted only 15 firm orders.Boeing said in a statement it "enters Singapore with terrific momentum across the company," while Airbus SAS stressed it came with "a positive outlook after achieving record orders, deliveries and profitability in 2005", reports the AP.


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