Paris Air Show Features Newcomers, New Technology

The Paris Air Show opened Monday with more than 2,100 exhibitors from 45 countries taking part in the week-long event. Most of the attention will be focused on the annual battle between Airbus and Boeing over who will sell the most airliners.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And for the airline industry, Paris is the place to be this week. It's the Paris Air Show, the world's largest air and space trade show.

Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Every two years, the once humble air field where Charles Lindbergh touched down after his first transatlantic flight is transformed into a massive showcase for the world's most advanced flying technology.

(Soundbite of speaker in French)

BEARDSLEY: One of the stars of this year's show will be a solar powered plane. The craft flew to Paris last week from Brussels in 16 hours amidst much media hype. The plane's makers hope to give daily demonstrations of what they say is the future of flying - weather permitting.

For the first time, a Chinese passenger plane manufacturer has set up a booth. Beijing clearly hopes to establish a beachhead in a market long dominated by European and North American companies. But some things at the air show never change, like the duel between the titans of commercial aviation - Airbus and Boeing. This year, after years of delays, Boeing has brought its 787 Dreamliner to wow the crowds. And Airbus is hoping to score big with its upgraded, more fuel efficient, version of the A320, says Robert Wall, international editor at Aviation Week.

Mr. ROBERT WALL (International editor, Aviation Week): They call it the NEO, the New Engine Option. And a clear focus for Airbus has been to make a huge splash with the NEO in terms of booking orders.

BEARDSLEY: Wall says cinching and announcing multi-billion dollar orders is all part of the Paris Air Show game, and Airbus is good at it. But what really matters, he says, is the number of orders at the end of the year. And for that, Airbus and Boeing are usually in a dead heat.

For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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