The first day of business at the 2013 Paris Air Show on Monday ended in a victory for Airbus over Boeing, with the European planemaker, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EPA:EAD), announcing orders worth $18.3 billion to the $6.1 billion by The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA). The battle of the two commercial aviation giants goes on until Friday, the last day of the trade and press part of the show, which then opens to the general public for the weekend.
This is the 50th edition of the Le Bourget Airshow, which takes place in odd years at the eponymous airport outside Paris, which the rest of the time is used mostly for private jets. In even years, the commercial and military aviation and space industry meets at Farnborough in England; Dubai hosts a rival trade show that is attracting more and more attention.
While the two biggest planemakers, and their smaller rivals, plot behind the scenes to one-up each other, flight displays by the industry’s latest products keep photographers busy. This is a sample of what flew on Monday in the skies over Le Bourget, and of some planes on static display.
The first Airbus A380 for British Airways, the latest airline to receive the world's biggest passenger airplane, arriving on Sunday at Le Bourget to prepare for the airshow.
Boeing sent a couple of 787s. One, pictured here arriving at the airshow on Sunday, is in the colors of Qatar Airways, which along with all other operators of the Dreamliner resumed flights in May after four months of worldwide grounding because of battery problems.
Monday began with torrential rains, not an uncommon event in Paris in June. This visitor is walking in front of a parked Rafale fighter-bomber. The sinister-looking product of French planemaker Dassault Aviation SA (EPA:AM) is one of the stars at Le Bourget, after winning this year a 126-plane, $15 billion mega-order from the Indian Air Force that ended one of the toughest competitions for a military airplane sale in recent years.
The sun came out in time for the A400M Grizzly, a heavy transport plane that is the first product of Airbus Military, to fly escorted by the Patrouille de France, the aerobatic team of the French Air Force. It hasn't entered service yet; it's still in testing after a troubled design phase.
Western air shows aren't for Western products alone. Russia's Sukhoi showed its Su-35 fighter, the latest version of its family of multirole jets known by its NATO code name of Flanker. Flankers have been a commercial success, but this model, known as Flanker-E, hasn't been exported yet. With its sleek good looks and spectacular agility, the Su-35 stunned onlookers as it displayed its remarkable abilities.
On the ground, the Flanker appears enormous in relation to the people near it. That's because it is: at 22 meters (73 ft) long and with a maximum takeoff weight of 34.5 tons (76,000 lbs), it's the biggest, heaviest fighter on the market today, while still among the fastest. At $40 million per unit, it's also a lot cheaper than its Western competitors: a Rafale is almost four times as expensive.
On Monday, the A380 flew too, displaying a remarkable agility for a 560,000 kg (1.2 million pound) airplane that can fly up to 850 people. That day Airbus received an $8 billion order for 20 A380s from lessor Doric Asset Finance Ltd., the first order for the planes in 2013.
So far the A380, with fewer than 300 orders booked, has not been a commercial success. Airbus sales chief John Leahy, on the left in the photo at Le Bourget with Doric CEO Mark Lapidus, wants to sell 25 this year.
Before the air show opened, Airbus flew on Friday, for the first time, its latest offering, the A350 twinjet that's meant to compete head-on against the Boeing 787. The Toulouse-based company has not brought the plane to Le Bourget, but has a mockup of the flight deck on display. Here, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (left) and Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier pose in it.