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Asia's largest airshow to ride on China's wings

by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 2, 2007
Airbus's new super jumbo will fly over Hong Kong on Monday, heralding the start of Asia's largest airshow, with the industry set to vie for slices of India's and China's booming markets.

The double-decker A380 is due to pass over the city's Victoria Harbour, an airspace normally reserved for helicopters, at around 1,000 feet (300 metres), marking the beginning of the four-day show.

Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress will see 500 exhibiting companies from more than 20 countries and 10,000 trade visitors in the city to scrutinise the latest industry developments, organisers said.

The conference is being held in Hong Kong for the first time in 25 years, since it moved from its original home in Singapore, a shift that organisers say reflects the boom in Chinese aviation.

Clive Richardson, vice president of Reed Exhibitions, who is putting on the show, said Hong Kong was chosen because of "its proximity to the world's most exciting aviation industry."

China's domestic air traffic is expected to double every five years and aviation authorities believe three of their airlines will be among the world's top ten both in terms of passenger traffic and revenue by 2020.

India is enjoying a similar boom. While the country had just three private airlines in 2003, at least 14 are now seeking government approval and around 480 aircraft are on order for delivery through to 2012.

"This region promises to be the focus of the entire global civil aerospace supply chain for the foreseeable future," Richardson said.

Once again, all eyes will be on European aircraft maker Airbus and arch US rival Boeing as they continue their battle for new orders in Asia.

China is becoming an increasingly important part of that market both as a competitor and a partner.

Earlier this year, Airbus announced it would open an assembly plant in the northern city of Tianjin, which would eventually make four A320s a month.

China's State Council or cabinet has also approved plans to build large passenger aircraft itself aimed at taking on the industry giants, not just at home but eventually on the world market.

The International Air Transport Association said earlier this year that the Asia Pacific region will account for 35 percent of all new aircraft delivered in the next 18 months, totalling around 600 new planes, more than any other region.

New long-haul budget airlines such as Hong Kong-based Oasis and Malaysian carrier AirAsia are also changing the face of the industry, driving down costs for customers and opening up new routes.

Tony Tyler, chief executive of Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific, said commercial air travel was booming.

"Aviation is going through a period of sustained growth, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, with a huge amount of dynamism in this industry," he told reporters Thursday ahead of the show.

Jim Eckes, managing director of Indoswiss Aviation, an industry consulting firm, said he believes opportunities in the Indian market are "even greater" than in China.

"I do not see the growth in China continuing for the next 20 years in the same way, but with India you have mergers and new airports being built that could see the kind of growth that China has seen in recent years," he told AFP.

"Safety and a shortage of pilots are also going to be key issues at the event."

The show has been scaled down since its move from Singapore, mainly as a result of shedding exhibitions from the military sector. But it has added exhibitions focusing on aircraft interiors and the air freight sector, which will run at the same time.

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Brazil's TAM Airlines Orders 1,000th Boeing 777
Seattle WA (SPX) Aug 30, 2007
Boeing has announced that an order from Brazil's TAM Airlines for four additional 777-300ERs brings to 1,003 the number of 777s ordered since the first order of the popular widebody in 1990. Today's announcement also means that, to date in 2007, Boeing has received orders for 100 of the popular 777s.

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