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Airbus, Boeing Compete for Orders at Paris Air Show

Airbus 380 at Paris Air Show
Aerospace giants Airbus of Europe and Boeing of the United States, have begun a week of competition for orders for passenger jets worth billions of dollars at the Paris Air Show. Airbus won the first round when Qatar Airways said it planned to buy up to 60 mid-size jets from the European firm.

The choice by Qatar Airways of the Airbus A-350 over Boeing's 787 Dreamliner was a big boost for the European manufacturer, although the airline also said it would buy at least 20 long-range Boeing 777s.

Boeing says it already has 250 potential orders for the 787, which is expected to go into service in 2008. The A-350 is Airbus's answer to the 787, but will be ready two years after its competitor if Airbus confirms in September that it will proceed with the project. Until Monday's announcement by Qatar Airways, Airbus had only received 10 definite and 20 potential orders for the jet.

David Learmont of Flight International magazine in London says the two aircraft, neither of which has yet flown, are remarkably similar.

"The 787 Dreamliner is absolutely brand new," he said. "It has got an awful lot of new technology in it. What the A-350 is, however, is exactly the same size, hitting the same sector in the market, and it's a massive technological upgrade effectively of Airbus's existing and very successful A-330 fleet."

The star of this year's Paris Air Show is Airbus's super jumbo A-380, which can carry up to 800 passengers. Airbus sees the gigantic plane as the successor to the Boeing 747.

Boeing chose not to build another jumbo, believing that the future of air travel lies with mid-size jets, like the 787, traveling non-stop from point-to-point instead of flying between major hubs like the A-380.

Airbus, in an effort to target products at all sectors of the passenger jet market, announced later that it would build the A-350 as a competitor to the 787.

Airbus and Boeing have accused one another of receiving what they say are unfair government subsidies. The European Union and the United States have taken the matter to the World Trade Organization. But, on Monday, both sides delayed the launch of WTO hearings into the competing claims by the rival aircraft manufacturers.