FARNBOROUGH The aviation industry flaunted a
green agenda at the world's biggest air show on Wednesday as
high oil prices and slowing economies heap pressure on
planemakers and airlines.
With strong plane orders coming only from airlines and
lessors in the Gulf and Asia, Tom Enders, the chief of European
planemaker Airbus EAD.PA, said the mood at the Farnborough
Airshow was "contradictory."
"On the one hand, clearly we have a crisis, particularly in
certain regions. On the other hand, there are still some
bullish, strong airlines who are investing into new aircraft,"
he told Reuters.
"I think it is a sign that not all is doom and gloom, that
the airline industry is not going down the drain, that we have
to differentiate regionally."
While European and U.S. airlines have fallen silent,
planemakers added to record order backlogs, with Asian and
Gulf-based airlines and lessors dominating orders this year.
Dubai Aerospace Enterprises' $12.6 billion firm order for
100 Airbus planes on Tuesday was followed on Wednesday by a
deal worth at least $7 billion at list prices for 30 Airbus
A350 XWB planes and 10 options from Korea's Asiana Airlines
Malaysia Airlines ordered 35 Boeing (BA.N) 737-800
single-aisle planes in a deal worth $2.6 billion. Overnight,
Air China (601111.SS) independently announced a deal for 15
Boeing 777 airplanes and 30 737s planes worth $6.3 billion.
But green issues dominated the airshow on its third day as
airline bosses and industry leaders joined the chiefs of Airbus
and Boeing's commercial aircraft unit, who briefly set aside
fierce rivalries over dwindling orders and a trade row over
subsidies, to defend efforts to reduce emissions and slam
"No other industry is as responsible, united and
ambitious," the head of the International Air Transport
Association (IATA), Giovanni Bisignani, told a sustainable
aviation conference. "I think we are facing an emergency
He said fuel now represented 34 percent of airlines'
operating costs, up from 14 percent five years ago. Airlines
faced a fuel bill of $190 billion this year, he added.
Executives slammed the European Union's plans to include
aviation from 2012 in its Emission Trading Scheme to fight
climate change. The plans were misguided, they said.
Airbus and Boeing have drawn up their most fuel efficient
designs ever but technological hurdles mean both are struggling
to deliver the promised planes.
The A380 superjumbo is two years late and in the hands of
just one carrier -- Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) -- while more
than 50 airlines are waiting for the Boeing 787, now running
about 15 months late and due in the third quarter of 2009.
Airbus has yet to cut metal on the mid-sized A350, another
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace said they remained
unconvinced by the industry's record.
"The airline industry cannot be green if it pursues the
expansion of airports because any gains made through more
efficient aircraft will be wiped out by the increasing number
of flights," Anna Jones, of Greenpeace, said.
"Alternative fuels are a pipe dream," she added.
The aerospace industry's largest showcase, held on
alternate years in the small English town and Le Bourget near
Paris, is taking place against a backdrop of oil prices which
have given the industry an incentive to cut fuel and save
Usually brimming with wheeler-dealers in sunglasses
promoting the world's most gas-guzzling machines, Farnborough
has been bombarded this year with expensively produced posters
promoting air travel as the greenest way of crossing the globe.
The opening of the sustainability conference was briefly
marred by the deafening roar of a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
taking off in a reek of fumes.
"That's not an environmentally friendly aircraft," Enders
quipped to journalists in a media centre patrolled by police
watching for any protesters.
The Airbus A380 superjumbo was parked behind billboards
suggesting the 525-seat aircraft, which Airbus calls the
planet's most fuel-efficient plane, is as environmentally sound
as bird flight or water on a leaf.
"I applaud Airbus's commitment to join us in planting a
love of nature in the minds of children and young people,"
Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary for the United Nations
Convention on Biological Diversity, said at an Airbus event.
About 350 firm orders for planes were announced during the
first two days of the week-long aviation jamboree.
The opening days traditionally account for the bulk of any
business. Some 600 planes were ordered in Paris in 2007.
(Additional reporting by Bill Rigby and John Bowker,
Editing by Dan Lalor)