Paris Air Show Draws 1,900 Exhibitors From 44 Countries

Just about every company associated with civil or military aviation has a presence on the exhibit grounds just north of Paris, where the major players have rented buildings to market their wares and entertain guests.

Mike Bair, the Boeing vice president in charge of the Dreamliner, said Boeing had sold so many 787s that its factory was booked for the first two years of production and officials were contemplating expanding their targets.

"The marketplace would eat as many as we could produce, so we're just trying to figure out a prudent number," Bair said.

Airbus spokesman David Velupillai said the A350 would prove a formidable competitor to the Dreamliner, in contrast with Boeing's inability to compete with the A380.

"The question is, why isn't Boeing in the super-jumbo market?" he said.

At first, many analysts thought Boeing had made a big mistake by not matching the A380. But as airlines began to show a huge appetite for the 787, it was Airbus that scrambled to announce the A350, which it bills as a replacement for its A330. Each company says its new midsize plane will cost less to operate than existing planes.

Whoever's vision of air travel proves correct -- analysts say there's room for both, because hubs will long be needed in places such as China and India -- all the new planes are good news for passengers.

In the 787, for example, air quality will be better because the composite materials used to make the fuselage are stronger than aluminum, allowing cabin pressure to be higher, Bair said. Boeing's research shows that passengers will have less eye and throat irritation as a result.

Customers will like that, but airlines like the 787 equally well for a different reason, Bair said: It's designed to be easier to strip down and sell if an airline hits hard times.

"It was not lost on us that we build a capital good for an industry that is struggling to make money," he said.

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