© Reuters. A model of a Future Combat Air System (SCAF), a European aircraft developed by France, Germany and Spain is displayed during the 54th International Paris Airshow at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 19, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
By Tim Hepher and Joanna Plucinska
PARIS (Reuters) – The Paris Airshow opened on Monday with last-minute jet order negotiations and supply chain headaches competing for attention with rows of missiles, drones and futuristic transport.
The world’s largest air show, which alternates with Farnborough in Britain, is at Le Bourget for the first time in four years after the 2021 edition fell victim to the pandemic.
French President Emmanuel Macron flew in to the packed aerospace bazaar by helicopter and watched a flying demonstration including Airbus’s latest jet development, the A321XLR, and air power including the French Rafale fighter.
The U.S. F-35 fighter was due to fly later on Monday.
Belgium said it would apply to join as an observer the potential successor to the Rafale and multinational Eurofighter, the Franco-German-Spanish FCAS fighter project, despite differences between industrial partners over whether to expand the project.
The air show is taking place under the shadow of the conflict in Ukraine, with no Russian presence in the chalets and exhibition halls in contrast to the last event four years ago.
Some Ukrainian officials and aerospace firms were expected to be present at the show.
France’s Thales announced a contract from Indonesia for 13 long-range air surveillance radars.
On the commercial side, planemakers arrived with growingdemand expectations as airlines rush for capacity to meet demandand help reach industry goals of net zero emissions by 2050.
But they also face a challenge to meet that demand as suppliers struggle with rising costs, parts shortages and a scarcity of skilled labour in the wake of the pandemic.
Barring a last-minute bust-up over the fine print, Airbus was expected to announce a record order for 500 narrow-body jets from Indian budget giant IndiGo at 1330 GMT on Monday.
Industry executives say as many as 2,000 jet orders are up for grabs worldwide in a resurgent commercial jet market, on top of those provisionally announced already, as airlines try to fill a void left by sharp falls in activity during the pandemic.
Only a portion of these potential fresh deals will be ready in time for this week’s air show, which could see a mixture of new and repeat announcements, they said.
Airbus was set to confirm that Qantas is exercising options for nine more A220s, as announced by the airline this year.
“What matters is the year-end order book,” said Agency Partners Sash Tusa.
Airbus is also close to a potentially large order for narrow-body jets from Mexican low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus, industry sources said on Sunday.
The number of planes being discussed was more than 100, they said, though by Monday some sources said the number in the final deal could settle closer to 60.
The Mexican carrier has long been a fierce battleground between Boeing (NYSE:) and Airbus.