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Airbus Expects To Rake In Orders At UK Air Show

European plane maker's Chief Salesman John Leahy said he would be disappointed if Airbus doesn't book firm orders for 200 planes this week.

FARNBOROUGH, England (AP) -- The world's biggest air show kicked off its second day on Tuesday with orders for 20 jets from European plane maker Airbus and an update from Boeing Co. on its delayed 787 jetliner.

Airlines from oil-rich Middle Eastern countries have saved the Farnborough International Airshow from an otherwise lackluster start, signing orders for around 150 planes worth more than $25 billion on Monday.

Many European and U.S. airlines are struggling to cope with rocketing fuel prices, combined with tighter credit conditions.

In contrast, several Middle Eastern carriers with the benefit of oil-backed sovereign wealth funds are banking on anticipated huge investment and greater tourism in the Gulf region to justify spending at a time when there is talk in the industry of potential cancelations and delays on existing orders.

"We carriers from the Gulf are the center of attraction these days," said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker as he announced an order for four A321s worth $360 million at list prices to a packed room of journalists.

The Qatar deal, which includes options for another two single-aisle A321s, was followed by an announcement by Tunisair for 16 Airbus jets worth $1.94 billion.

The Tunisian carrier firmed up an order for the purchase of 10 single-aisle A320s, three wide-body A330s and three of the revamped, long-range A350-800 XWBs. The deal had already been announced in April after Tunisair gave a "letter of acceptance" to Airbus.

Airlines often negotiate substantial discounts to the catalog prices and the actual value of both deals was not announced.

Airbus' rival Boeing, who inked deals for 95 aircraft on Monday, said Tuesday it remains on track to test fly its 787 jetliner in the fourth quarter of this year and make its first delivery in the third quarter of 2009 -- but acknowledged that its timetable remains tight.

Program manager Pat Shanahan said the Chicago-based plane maker was working to fix a recently discovered brake problem that is key to the aircraft receiving hardware qualifications in the next month or so.

The 787, touted by Boeing for its greater fuel-efficiency potential, has been hampered by delays that have cost the company credibility and billions of dollars in expected additional costs and penalties.

The biggest deal so far came from Etihad Airways on Monday, which split an order for 100 aircraft between Airbus and Boeing worth $20 billion at list prices.

The order slightly favored Airbus, which won a $11 billion firm order for 55 planes including 20 single-aisle A320s, 25 mid-size A350s and 10 of the superjumbo A380s.

Etihad also announced a firm order worth $9 billion at list prices for 35 Boeing 787 aircraft and 10 Boeing 777-300ER planes.

In addition Etihad placed options for a further 25 Boeing 787s and 10 Boeing 777s and has agreed purchase rights for a further 10 Boeing 787s and five Boeing 777s.

The recently launched low-cost airline FlyDubai also used the biennial show -- it alternates years with an event in Le Bourget in France -- to announce an order for 50 next-generation 737-800s, worth around $3.74 billion in total at current list prices. FlyDubai has substitution rights to convert its 737-800 orders to 737-900ERs in the future.

In a smaller deal, Saudi Arabian Airlines signed a contract with Airbus for eight of the European plane maker's A330-300 wide body aircraft, worth $1.6 billion at list prices.

Airbus Chief Salesman John Leahy said he would be disappointed if the European plane maker doesn't book firm orders for 200 planes this week.

At the Paris air show last year, 506 orders were taken between Airbus and Boeing. Credit Suisse said it expects around 200-300 orders to be announced at Farnborough.

Almost 1,500 exhibitors from 35 countries will show off the latest in aviation technology at Farnborough -- a flypast of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter jet for the U.S. Air Force was a highlight on Monday.

The air show runs July 14-18 for aerospace professionals only; public days are July 19-20.

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