While the prime focus at the last major European air show, Farnborough in September 1996, was on the dog-fight between Boeing and Airbus Industrie to launch a 747 successor, the duel has now regrouped around longer range, and/or increased capacity derivatives of the two rivals' existing products.

Airbus Industrie (2/D18, chalet 139B/B) has been talking about stretched derivatives of its four-engined, 260- to 300-seat A340 family for years, but studies reached a definitive stage in early 1996. Pratt & Whitney (2/E15, J8, K8, 61/A) and Rolls-Royce (2/B19 chalet 244/B 246/B) are bidding to provide a powerplant for these new A340 models, which are dubbed the -500 and -600.

Both new versions will have enlarged wings, increased weights and more-powerful engines, with the -600 being around 30% larger than the -300, and seating some 380 passengers. The A340-500, which is only slightly larger than the existing A340-300, does offer some 1,900km (1,000nm) additional range, enabling it to serve points deep in Asia direct from the USA. Airbus is widely believed to be planning to move the programme a stage further at Paris, either with the announcement of the engine selection, or the programme launch, or perhaps both.

Two aircraft from the European consortium's current line-up will be displayed at the show, the A340 and the latest member of the A320 family, the 124-seat A319 (International Aero Engines V2500-powered), which entered airline service in 1996.

The aircraft will be painted in Airbus house colours, and are scheduled to appear in the flying display each day.

While the A340 models are at the top of Airbus' priorities, there will undoubtedly be much interest at the show in the Europeans' plans to develop a very large airliner, the A3XX. Airbus is displaying a full-scale cross-section of the double-decker on its stand, providing a true impression of the actual size of this giant 560- to 660 seater which could be in airline service before the end of 2003 (see P41).

Airbus will be watching with interest the developments unveiled by what has now become its only rival in the manufacture of large airliners, Boeing (2/J7, chalet 116). The Seattle-based company, which commands around 60% of airliner sales and is fast approaching the sale of its 10,000th airliner, is set to absorb its St Louis, Missouri-based contemporary McDonnell Douglas, once the deal has received the relevant clearances.

The European Union has recently expressed its concerns about the tie-up, and the air show will provide Boeing with a perfect opportunity to respond.

Making its air show debut at Paris is Boeing's latest version of the successful 737 family and the first next-generation model, the737-700. Boeing is bringing aircraft no 5 to Paris. This aircraft is destined to be delivered to Germania in 1998.

The -700 series, of which flight-testing began in February, is scheduled to enter service with Southwest Airlines in October. The three-model, 100- to 170-seat (-600/-700/-800) next-generation 737 family has sold well in Europe since its launch in October 1993, and Maersk Air is scheduled to become the first operator in the region later this year.

The 737 models are pitched directly against the Airbus A320 family, and Boeing has recently begun discussing a further stretch of the aircraft dubbed the 737-900X. This would create a 180-seat (two-class) rival to the A321.

The 777-200, one of the stars of the 1995 show, now has two years of revenue service behind it, and Boeing is preparing to begin testing of the stretched -300 later this year. Studies of a short-fuselage -100 have been effectively terminated in favour of a larger 767 derivative (the recently launched 767-400), and Boeing's focus of development on the 777 programme is to now offer increased range on the existing models. The 777-200X and 777-300X will have increased weights and more-powerful engines, with the former version offering range capability to rival that of the A340-500.

Since its public U-turn earlier this year over plans for new, enlarged and longer 747 models, Boeing has dusted off earlier studies of less-complex, but considerably less costly 747 growth variants. The first aircraft could be available by 2001.

While there are now just two participants at the top end of the airliner market, the same cannot be said for the regional sector. It is now generally accepted that jet-powered aircraft have a long-term future at the smaller end of the market (ie, aircraft with fewer than 80 seats), but the jury is still out on how small a regional jet can be economically developed.

Europe's Aero International (Regional) (AI(R)) (2/B18/chalet 150), which recently restructured its product line-up with the elimination of the 30-seat Jetstream 41, will be displaying two aircraft at Paris - an ATR 72-210A of American Eagle and an Avro RJ100 in Sabena colours. The consortium, which has been in operation officially for around 18 months, may choose to announce at Paris the go-ahead of its new 50- to 70-seat regional-jet family, the Air Jet, which has the four-abreast fuselage of the ATR 42/72.

Although sales of the Avro RJ remain solid, the European consortium is keen to map out its long-term product strategy, and has just a few outstanding issues to resolve, including engine selection, before it can firm up its AIR Jet programme. A decision is expected to be announced at Paris, along with the go-ahead for the initial AI(R) 70 version.

Bombardier (2/G17/Chalet 21), the fiefdom of which includes Canadair and de Havilland, will be displaying a 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ), along with a similarly sized de Havilland Dash 8-300, the latter in the colours of Tyrolean Airways. The Canadian sister companies are both developing stretched 70-seat derivatives of their aircraft, with the Dash 8-400 scheduled to fly in December 1997, while the first CRJ-700 will be completed in the second quarter of 1999. To date, both programmes have secured small cores of orders from launch customers, and more sales could come to light during the show.

Canadair is vying with Embraer (2/E15), offering its EMB-145, to satisfy AMR Eagle's requirement for up to 67 regional jets, and the selection is one of the major announcements expected during Paris. Embraer recently achieved European Joint Aviation Authorities approval for the EMB-145, and commenced deliveries in the region to launch customers Regional Airlines and Portugalia.

The 50-seat EMB-145 will be making its Paris show debut, with Embraer exhibiting the first of up to five aircraft for Manx/British Regional Airlines. This contract, which was won earlier this year against stiff competition from Canadair (offering its CRJ) and Saab (bidding with its 2000), was particularly important as the aircraft will be operated on British Airways franchise routes in the livery of the UK flag carrier. The aircraft is expected to be flown in the flying display each day.

Although Embraer competes in the 30- to 40-seat market with its EMB-120 Brasilia turboprop, the company is set to abandon propellers for turbofan engines with the impending go-ahead of its short fuselage EMB-145 derivative, the EMB-135. The manufacturer has recently launched an extended-range EMB-145 derivative, and is now considering an enlarged extension to the family, in the form of the 70-seat EMB-170, which would have a wider, four-abreast cabin and more-powerful engines.

Offered in the same market as the jet-powered EMB-145 and CRJ, Saab's (2/D20/chalet 38) 50-seat 2000 high-speed turboprop has so far failed to deliver the solid-sales performance of its smaller predecessor, the 340, for its Swedish manufacturer. Saab will display a Regional Airlines 2000, and may announce some much-needed orders for the airliner.

Fairchild Dornier's decision earlier this year to offer a turbofan-powered version of the 32-seat 328 turboprop has intensified the debate over just how small the regional jet can go. The US-German regional-airliner specialist, which will display a 328 in the colours of Tyrolean Jet Services, is now seeking partners to assist it to launch a stretched, jet-powered 328 derivative, the 50-seat 528JET.

The Indonesian manufacturer IPTN (chalet 108/B) will bring two flying prototypes of its N250 50-seat turboprop. The N250, which is the first indigenously designed Indonesian civil aircraft, is making its debut in the northern hemisphere, and is aimed at the slice of a market which is becoming increasingly the domain of the regional jets.

At the smallest end of the airliner market, Raytheon (chalet 55/A) will display its offering in the 19-seat sector, the Beech 1900D. The Wichita-based company is now effectively the sole mass-producer of new-build 19-seaters.

The Czech manufacturer LET (chalet 42) will be displaying its 40-seat, Let L610 G twin-turboprop. This General Electric CT7-powered airliner offers short take-off and landing performance and is now being actively marketed to regional airlines worldwide as the company works towards certification.

The main offerings from the Russian manufacturers are represented by Avia export (5/A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, D1 chalet 59), which is planning to exhibit the recently completed Ilyushin Il-96T (with P&W PW2000 engines and Rockwell-Collins avionics), the Il-114T turboprop and the stretched, re-engined Il-76MF. The latter model, which is being developed for both civil and military requirements, will be making its Paris debut, while the Il-96T is the freighter derivative of the Il-96M displayed at Paris 1995. There is also a possibility that a version of the Tupolev Tu-204, which is offered with both Perm PS-90 and R-R RB.211 engines, could appear at the show.

McDonnell Douglas (chalet 45A) which is awaiting the green light for its merger with Boeing, will not be exhibiting any of its commercial product line. The company has, however, recently moved forward with plans to develop a commercial derivative of its C-17 military transporter which will be at the show.

The conversion of older widebodied airliners into freighters is now big business in Europe, and one of the conversion specialists, British Aerospace Aviation Services (2/C15A chalet 34/A 37/A), will display a converted Airbus A300B4 freighter. Channel Express is preparing to put the first aircraft into service following certification.

On a lighter note, there will be several ex-airliners being displayed in their new roles, including the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar Flying Hospital and the Sogerma-Socea Airbus A300 "Zero G" weightless-environment demonstrator. A British Airways Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde will also make a brief appearance.

Source: Flight International