Gloomy aviation leaders gather for the Paris Air Show on Monday expecting only a handful of new business to bolster an industry mourning the Atlantic jet disaster, economic crisis and new concerns about swine flu.
The world's largest aviation showcase attracts dealmakers from the aircraft and arms industries every two years to sign contracts and network under the roar of military jets -- but this year's show is certain to be a much more sober event.
The heads of both Boeing
Investigators say it is too early to say what caused the crash but have disclosed evidence of inconsistent data from speed sensors on the Airbus plane, which Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney commended as a reliable and proven jetliner.
It is safe to say that the aviation community is still (in) some shock, Airbus
The air transport industry has been battered by a slump in the economy coupled with weakened credit. Together these have cast doubt on the ability of airlines to pay for the roughly $800 billion of planes on order following a previous order boom.
Defense businesses are likewise bracing for spending cuts.
Pressure mounted on Sunday when Britain recorded its first death from H1N1 swine flu, three days after the World Health Organization declared an influenza pandemic.
The emergence of the virus in April triggered a worldwide health scare and accelerated sharp falls in passenger travel.
ORDERS LESS RELEVANT
Group of Eight finance ministers meeting in Italy at the weekend said the world's leading economies were stabilizing but that recovery from the credit crisis remained shaky.
Both Boeing and Airbus said there few signs so far of any recovery in aerospace, which is a leading export industry for the United States and European Union.
Whether the two rivals in commercial aerospace manage to net orders this week is seen as something of a sideshow since their order books are bulging with undelivered planes.
When you have got 7,000 planes on the backlog, new sales aren't relevant. It is about convincing people to take delivery, Richard Aboulafia, Vice President at U.S. aerospace and Defense consultancy Teal Group, said.
It is out of the hands of Airbus and Boeing and in the hands of the traveling public, who are voting with their feet and not getting on planes or buying tickets, he added.
Qatar Airways is expected to provide one of the few new orders at the show but there are doubts whether it needs to add to the 114 wide-body jets it has ordered from Airbus and Boeing.
Among those seen likely to do well at the show are jet engine makers, who are busy selling engines to power jets previously ordered by airlines in stronger markets two years ago.
As usual, the week-long show will give a chance for military commands to show off their best and latest hardware in the hope of grabbing export orders or increasing their prestige.
This year will see an unusual stand-off between ex-Cold War superpowers. The United States will display its most advanced warplane, the Lockheed Martin
The 75-95 seat plane, assembled by Sukhoi in a converted wing of a top secret fighter factory in Russia's Far East, has been painted as a bid to assert Russia's industrial renewal.
Built with French and Italian investment, its arrival upstages delayed Western projects like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner whose maiden flight is not expected until after the air show.
(Editing Bernard Orr)